Senior sources said the haul — just under two tonnes and worth an estimated €37.5m on the street — is “staggering in its scale” and the biggest since the seizure of 13 tonnes of cannabis in Urlingford, Co Kilkenny, in 1996.
The 1.87 tonnes of cannabis herb was confiscated at Dublin Port after a joint operation by Garda and Customs.
Investigators suspect the Kinahan cartel is behind the operation given the “enormity” of the consignment.
They believe the leadership of the cartel in Dublin, based in the Crumlin area, were involved with their counterparts abroad.
“There are very few people capable of bringing this in,” said a source. “We believe it’s a Dublin gang and the Kinahan cartel are the only crew capable of it. But investigations are continuing.”
Gardaí believe that because the cartel is under so much pressure, including regular surveillance in Dublin, their drug business has been hit hard.
“There has been nothing near this scale for decades, as far back as Urlingford,” said one source.
“There have been huge seizures in recent years, of 100kg and 150kg, but nothing like this. This is staggering in its scale.”
Gardaí believe that this consignment was destined for the Irish market.
“This would have sustained the Irish market for a considerable time,” said the source. “As a result there will be a shortage of herb and the prices may go up.”
Gardaí believe that the consignment may have cost the traffickers between €3m-€5m to purchase and to ship. It is thought that a ship may have travelled from the Eastern Mediterranean/Balkans area.
Customs and the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau received intelligence and set up a joint operation.
A surveillance operation was put in place in Dublin Port and in parts of the city awaiting the arrival of the ship and movements of suspects.
The consignment was split up and stored in separate containers, possibly to be picked up separately.
The investigation team waited for lorry drivers to come and collect the containers, but this did not happen. This could suggest that the gangs suspected the consignment was under surveillance. Sources said it was “extremely difficult” to conduct surveillance in Dublin Port, where so many lorry drivers are in and out, and word could have got out.
In previous large-scale trafficking operations, a conglomerate of criminal gangs come together, but gardaí suspect that the sheer scale of this shipment suggested the Kinahan cartel itself controlled the operation.
“They are really under pressure as a result of all the monitoring of their activities because of the feud,” said a source.