Garda figures appear to indicate a sharp rise in the quantity of cocaine being trafficked into the country, replicating trends across Europe.
A surge in the production of cocaine is combining with rising incomes in Ireland and increased demand for the drug, according to the country’s top narcotics detective.
Detective Superintendent Seamus Boland said recreational cocaine users were “generating the wealth” of traffickers, including the Kinahan crime cartel.
Det Supt Boland, of the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB), said their cocaine seizure data reflected the European trend, where record hauls of last year were already being surpassed this year.
In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Det Supt Boland said DOCB figures show:
- 159kg of cocaine were seized in 2018, compared to 81kgs in 2017;
- There were 29 significant cocaine seizures last year, compared to 23 in 2017;
- The three biggest cocaine seizures in 2018 were 66kg, 49kg, and 36kg;
These captures are significantly greater than in 2017, when the largest seizures was one haul of 20kg and two hauls of 10kg each.
This does not include the seizure last August of 133kg of cocaine on board a ship in Costa Rica that was bound for Cork, much of it linked to the Kinahan cartel.
“We’re no different in Ireland than other European countries,” said Det Supt Boland.
“The seizures of cocaine all across Europe appears to be going up. Internationally, the production of cocaine in the last 12 months is one of the highest recorded.”
He said that while caution should be taken using seizure data on its own as an indicator of trends, seizures abroad and discussions with Customs and international agencies suggested “bigger volumes” are coming into Europe.
He said Spain had a six-tonne seizure of cocaine in October 2018, after a nine-tonne haul in April. Ports of Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Antwerp (Belgium) saw record cocaine seizures in 2018, with around 73 tonnes seized, up from 54 tonnes.
“Then, you have the mother lode, the 9.5 tonnes, the last day in Cape Verde, heading for Africa and coming to Europe,” he said.
This haul, at the start of this month, is thought to be the largest-ever maritime cocaine seizure on this side of the Atlantic and resulted from intelligence gathered by an EU drugs task force.