The island of Ireland is "clearly seen an as attractive location" for organised crime to operate cannabis factories, according to a cross-border policing report.
It said successful law enforcement operations against the lucrative trade “does not appear to be an effective deterrent” as production facilities continue apace.
The Cross Border Organised Crime Assessment 2014 was published at a seminar in Belfast yesterday that was attended by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, interim Garda commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan, Stormont’s Justice Minister David Ford, and PSNI chief constable George Hamilton.
The report, compiled by gardaí and the PSNI, said there was “substantial interaction” between organised crime groups on both sides of the border. It said links between organised crime and dissident republicans “remain a serious concern”.
The report said there was often an “environment of co-operation” among higher-level organised crime groups and that both jurisdictions were “seeing the significant presence of foreign national organised crime groups”.
It said interest in cannabis cultivation had “accelerated” at all levels of organised crime.
“The island of Ireland is clearly seen as an attractive location for these operations,” the report said.
“Law enforcement continually disrupts large grow houses but this does not appear to be an effective deterrent as operations apace due to low start-up and running costs, along with potential profits.”
It said foreign gangs were frequently involved, particularly Vietnamese and Chinese gangs. It said gangs were becoming more technical, including in the use of “purpose-built and underground” grow houses as well as “unmanned hydroponic cultivation facilities”.
The assessment said the proliferation of new psychoactive substances was one of the key threats in the drugs market.
In other criminal areas, it noted:
- A growing market for illicit alcohol, with a 70% jump in the Republic in the seizure of illegal alcohol;
- Growing cybercrime threats, but with estimates that the problem is significantly under-reported;
- Continuing oil fraud, with nine fuel-laundering plants uncovered in the Republic in 2013;
- Several organised crime groups involved in organised prostitution and brothel keeping, including trafficking of women for sexual exploitation;
- New developments in the cigarette smuggling trade, including the discovery of processing factories turning raw tobacco into cigarettes.
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