Gardaí and customs net €45m drugs in 40 operations

More than 40 top-secret “controlled delivery operations” were conducted by gardaí and Customs last year, netting drugs worth over €45 million.

The joint operations were responsible for almost half of the total value of drugs seized during 2012 (over €100m) and included the biggest-ever inland seizure of cocaine in the State.

University graduate Garreth Hopkins was sentenced to 15 years last month in relation to the interception of 423kg of cocaine, with a nominal value of €30m, in June 2012.

Given the high purity of the consignment — which would have been diluted multiple times — the final street value would have been at least €120m to €150m.

A mid-term review of the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 said the haul resulted in the “disruption of a significant organised crime group”. It said there were 41 joint controlled delivery operations in 2012, involving gardaí and Customs and, in some cases, the Irish Medicines Board.

“These operations resulted in the seizure of drugs with a street value in excess of €45m,” said the review.

Controlled deliveries are where gardaí and Customs have information that drugs are due to be transported into the country.

A surveillance operation is put in place and the drugs are allowed into the country. The haul and the courier are monitored, leading to the seizure of the drugs and the possible arrests of those receiving or transporting it.

The review said the estimated street value of drugs seized more than doubled in 2012. It said gardaí and Customs were also represented in the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre — Narcotics in Lisbon, which seized 9.6 tonnes of cocaine and 2.7 tonnes of cannabis in 2012.

Elsewhere, the review said almost 100,000 syringes were handed out to nearly 3,600 intravenous drug users outside Dublin in the 10 months since a nationwide programme was established.

The Irish Pharmacy Needle Exchange service began in late 2011 as a joint initiative of the HSE, the Irish Pharmacy Union and the Elton John Aids Foundation, which gave funding.

The review said almost 10,000 packs (each containing 10 “one-hit-kits”) were handed out between Dec 2011 and Oct 2012 outside Dublin.

The 99,240 clean needles were handed out to 3,592 individual users, with the hope of preventing the transmission of blood-borne viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis. Users are also informed of treatment and counselling services.

The review said the feedback from users was positive, with a similar response from the 50 or so pharmacies involved, with only five reports of behavioural issues.

It said more pharmacies would be recruited over the next two years, with funding guaranteed until 2014. It said injecting equipment would be provided to steroid users.

The review said 9,419 people were receiving methadone, a legal substitute for heroin, at the end of 2012, compared to 9,251 in 2011. It said that the HSE had finalised a national overdose prevention programme, an action of the National Drugs Strategy, and recommended a limited Naloxone demonstration project.

Some 600 users attending clinics and needle exchanges will receive Naloxone, which can be administered to treat suspected overdose.


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