In excess of €500m worth of drugs have been seized by European law enforcement agencies since the start of the year, reflecting a substantial increase in trafficking across the Atlantic and Mediterranean.
The tally includes Wednesday’s haul in England of more than one tonne of cocaine, which was intercepted with the assistance of the Irish navy and air corps and the seizure over a fortnight ago of 133kg of cocaine on a ship in Costa Rica that was bound for Cork.
Police officers in Europe are concerned at what has been described as a “tsunami” of cocaine being supplied into Western Europe from South and Central America.
Production of cocaine has increased in South America and despite the rise in interceptions by European agencies, police believe that huge quantities of the drug are still making it into ports.
The operation that culminated in Wednesday’s haul stemmed from intelligence gathered by the British National Crime Agency and was co-ordinated by the EU’s Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre-Narcotics (MAOC-N).
The Irish naval service and air corps conducted a surveillance operation on a catamaran, the Nomad, across 300km of Irish-monitored waters before British border units took charge and brought it into Cornwall.
The Irish Examiner understands that British authorities uncovered in excess of a tonne of cocaine inside the yacht. That would have an estimated street value of around €75m. However, given the purity is likely to be 70%-80%, it would have been diluted, boosting the value.
Sources said that “in excess of half a billion euro worth” of cocaine and cannabis has been seized by European agencies in the Atlantic and Mediterranean so far this year. It is expected to hit the billion euro mark before the end of the year.
Sources said there has been an increase in trafficking and seizures.
Last month, 133kg of cocaine was found inside a container of a ship in Costa Rica that was bound for Cork. The “lion’s share” of the cocaine was believed to be for Kinahan cartel personnel.
MAOC-N is an EU taskforce comprising seven member states: France, Ireland, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, and the UK.
Speaking on Morning Ireland, Captain Brian Fitzgerald from the Irish Naval Service said it was a “complex operation”.
He said the navy ship had to find the yacht and identify it and, between it and the air corps, stay with it without blowing their cover.
“What’s extraordinary is that this yacht went from one extremity of Irish waters, more than 200 miles west of Ireland, went directly through, it was like route one through Irish maritime area, all the way across, got to UK waters, and UK border force took the baton,” he said.
“It tells us the transportation of illegal drugs through waters, into the western approach into Europe, remains a real and present danger.”