Up to five of these syndicates have direct connections with South and Central America and sometimes orchestrate an entire shipment of cocaine into Ireland, sometimes via Europe.
They include the Spanish-based Christy Kinahan cartel — currently involved in a feud with the Hutch gang — and a trafficking network controlled by a veteran criminal based in Holland and Germany.
Irish gangs’ direct line with cocaine exporters in South and Central America was referenced in a massive report, EU Drug Markets, published yesterday by the EU’s police and drug agencies.
“Direct connections from Central America into Ireland and the United Kingdom indicate connections between Irish and British OCGs [organised crime groups] with drug cartels in South and Central America,” said the report.
In March 2015, 25kg of cocaine was seized in Cork Port after being imported directly from Central America.
In December 2014, 300kg of cocaine, originating in Colombia, was seized in Portsmouth, England, in a smuggling operation by Irish and British networks.
The EU report referenced the September 2014 seizure of 1.1 tonnes of cocaine on the yacht, Makayabella, originating from Venezuela, off Mizen Head, Co Cork.
In June 2012, 429kg of cocaine was shipped from South America into Rotterdam port and onto Dublin Port, before being seized.
However, the bulk of cocaine, cannabis, and heroin coming here is sourced by an estimated 10 Irish gangs in Spain and the Netherlands.
In Spain, they negotiate with British and Spanish cartels for cocaine and cannabis and, in the Netherlands, with Dutch gangs for cocaine, heroin, and cannabis. They are thought to pay around €25,000 for a kilo of cocaine, which, when shipped to Ireland, is diluted four to five times, with each diluted kilo selling for €25,000.
The Irish gangs in Spain and Holland often join a conglomerate of networks in the importation of multi-tonne shipments from South America.
The EU report said Irish and British gangs also operate in South Africa and use it as a transhipment point.