Spanish police say they have “dismantled” a major Irish drug-trafficking gang after a joint operation with gardaí resulted in the seizure of 170kg of cannabis herb and the arrest of four Irish men.
The haul, with an estimated street value of €3.4m, was the result of intelligence given to Spanish police by An Garda Síochána, through its Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
The four Irish men, aged 56, 45, 35 and 33, are from the Carrickmines area of south Dublin and are involved in a crew well known to gardaí.
One of them has a European arrest warrant out against him in relation to heroin supply some 10 years ago. A fifth person arrested, aged 27, is from Eastern Europe.
In a statement, Spanish police said the drugs were destined for Ireland and were about to be transported when they made their move.
The consignment, hidden in a trailer among 20 tonnes of lettuce, was uncovered when agents swooped on a vehicle some 50km north west of Malaga.
The statement said the operation was the work of the Policia Nacional, la Guardia Civil, and gardaí.
“Thanks to this operation against drug trafficking, the criminal organisation that operated on the Costa del Sol has been dismantled,” the statement said.
It said: “The investigations began in April when the National Police agents received information from the Garda Síochána in which they warned of the settlement on the Costa del Sol of an organisation made up of Irish citizens who were dedicated to exporting narcotics to their country.”
It said investigations identified several of those involved, some of them living on the Costa del Sol and others displaced from Ireland to supervise a shipment that they were apparently preparing for delivery.
Spanish police established the shipment was imminent and they put in place an operation. They surrounded the vehicle on its way to Cordoba. They found 170kg of cannabis herb amongst the lettuce. Four searches were conducted in Malaga and Almeria.
Three vehicles were seized, along with a truck-type trailer, three computers and 10 mobile phones.
The 20 tonnes of lettuce were given to food banks.
The statement said those arrested had been charged with belonging to a criminal group, drug trafficking and document forgery.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated operation, the Criminal Assets Bureau led searches in Dublin and Wexford targeting an organised crime group.
The gang, based in the Tallaght area, was identified by the Special Crime Task Force, which targets local and mid-level criminal groupings in Dublin. Revenue also assisted.
Searches were conducted in homes in Tallaght, the south inner city, and south county Dublin, and a holiday home in Wexford.
Some US$1,500 and stg£250 in cash was seized, along with a 2014 Audi A6, one Rolex and two Tag Heuer watches, computer equipment, mobile phones, documents and a small quantity of drugs.
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