YESTERDAY’S record €750 million seizure of cocaine brought the value of the drug netted off the west Cork coast to far in excess of €1 billion in just the last 18 months.
If naval sources are correct about its value, it dwarfs the €440m seized at Dunlough Bay in July 2007.
While last night’s haul was the result of a highly skilled operation jointly organised by international security forces, last year’s seizure was down to the failures of the culprits, one of whom nearly drowned trying to transport the drugs.
As a result, the security services were left to gather the large bales from the sea.
Ironically it was only in the last few days that the last man to be arrested in connection with that seizure, Gerard Hagan, was handed down a prison sentenced.
The Dunlough Bay haul was, at the time, considered to be a freak seizure unlikely to be replicated for many years.
However, last night’s haul proves that the waters off Ireland are a common route for those transporting drugs across the globe. That is not unexpected. The EU police co-ordinating body, Europol, has warned in recent years that the British and Irish coastlines are vulnerable.
The locations for the two massive cocaine seizures are not the only similarity between the hauls, however.
In both cases, British men would appear to have been behind the movement of the drugs. In fact it is thought the Dunlough Bay drugs were actually bound for Britain.
Furthermore, the vessels which carried the drugs into Irish waters both appear to have at least stopped in the Caribbean.
The two cocaine seizures off the southwest coast far exceed the country’s next biggest haul. The last such operation netted 320kg of cocaine at Kinsale in September 1998, virtually all of which was bound for Britain.
Today, gardaí will continue to question the three men who they removed from the 60 foot yacht last night. It is likely they are being detained under section 2 of the Drugs Trafficking Act at Garda stations in Bandon and Bantry. Under that legislation they can be held for up to seven days.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen praised the security services for the way they had stopped the cocaine hitting the streets.
“I want to congratulate and compliment all those involved for their professionalism and dedication to duty,” he said.
“A massive drugs haul like this should not be seen just in terms of the hundreds of millions of euro of drugs seized, but also in terms of the lives saved and the misery avoided as a result.
“The Government is working hard to rid our cities and towns from the scourge of drug addiction and the crimes associated with drug trafficking, today is a success but we must not become complacent, constant vigilance must be maintained,” he said.
Tracing drug use through sewage
WHILE it may sound unappealing work, sewage plants could hold the key to estimating the amount of cocaine being consumed in the local population.
New developments in analytical chemistry, known as sewage epidemiology, allows scientists to detect levels of cocaine in wastewater.
“The method involves measuring the levels of breakdown products of illicit drugs excreted in the urine of consumers,” said the EMCDDA report.
The levels of the products are then scaled up to calculate the consumption of the drug in the population.
In the case of cocaine, the main metabolite excreted in the urine is benzoylecgonine.
The report said the technology is still at its early stages of development, but that it had “potential for drug surveillance at the community level“.
The report said that because sampling and analysis can be conducted on a weekly or even daily basis, it can provide up-to-date information.
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