Haul highlights links to drug cartels

The discovery of a huge haul of cocaine at Cork Port directly imported from Central America again raises concerns regarding the shipment of massive consignments to Ireland and through Irish waters for the local and British markets.

It also highlights the extent to which Irish and British crime groups are engaged in operations with drug cartels in South and Central America.

The 25kg haul has an estimated street value of €1.75m. But given the purity of the cocaine is likely to be very high, it would have had a final value of multiples of that once diluted.

It is the latest in a number of major cocaine hauls intercepted coming into Ireland or passing through its waters in recent months.

Last December, 300kg of cocaine was seized in Portsmouth, England, following joint surveillance by the Garda National Drugs Unit and the British National Crime Agency.

The cocaine had originated in Columbia. Gardaí suspect that part of the shipment was bound for the Irish market and was organised by Irish and British crime groups.

Last September, the Navy intercepted the yacht Makayabella 500kms south west of Mizen Head, Co Cork, with some 1.1 tonnes of cocaine on board.

The haul was valued in the region of €77m, but again its final worth would have been multiples of that.

Three British nationals were arrested by gardaí, with follow-on arrests in England. It is thought the Makayabella was either on its way to Rosslare Port or to Wales or England.

It is not the first time major cocaine hauls have been made off the Irish coast, with the two biggest, each 1.5 tonnes, made in July 2007 and November 2008. “We have had several large seizures off the coast of Ireland, either destined for the UK or split up between Ireland and the UK,” said Andrew Cunningham of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

Experts at the EU drugs agency are examining if recent seizures mark a shift to greater use of this route to traffic shipments of cocaine.

More in this section