Gardaí, along with police from the other states, co-ordinated by the EU police agency, Europol, arrested the couriers.
According to Europol’s Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment, 2017, a hike in cocaine production in Colombia could lead to “intensified” trafficking into the EU.
“Brazil is among the main countries of departure for couriers trafficking cocaine to the EU,” said the report.
“This has been confirmed by the results of Operation Fuleco, an effort by member states, supported by Europol, targeting cocaine couriers arriving to the EU’s major airports.”
Nearly 200 cocaine couriers were arrested and almost 500kg of cocaine were seized in the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, and Ireland.”
The report said that over the last two years, the production of cocaine in Colombia has “intensified significantly”. It said: “An increase in the production output in Colombia will likely impact on the EU, in the form of intensified trafficking activity, as well as greater availability of cocaine on drug markets in the member states.”
The modus operandi associated with the cocaine trade has largely remained the same, with it typically trafficked as part of large shipments in containers, or in smaller quantities by couriers.
The main routes are into Spain, with a northern route into Netherlands, Belgium and, on occasion, through Britain and Ireland. A southern route splits to west and south Africa.
The United Arab Emirates and destinations in East Africa have emerged as hubs for cocaine couriers travelling to the EU. Cruise ships departing from the Caribbean are increasingly used to traffic cocaine to the EU.
More organised criminal groups (OCGs) are involved in cocaine-trafficking than in any other criminal activity. There are 5,000 OCGs in the EU now, operating at an international level, compared to 3,600 OCGs in 2013.