The Kinahan drug cartel is a main driver in the surge of cocaine coming into Europe and Ireland’s middle- and high-income earners are “fuelling” the trade here, garda sources have said.
Detectives told the Irish Examiner it was good that the role played by the Kinahan cartel in the drugs trade had been publicly stated in a major report by EU drugs and police agencies.
The EU Drug Markets Report 2019, published this week by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and by Europol, put the minimum value of the EU’s cocaine market at €9.1bn, based on data from 2017.
This compares to a minimum estimate of €5.7bn in 2016, based on 2013 data – marking a 60% jump in just three-to-four years.
The report said the Kinahan cartel were “key players” in the European drugs trade and were involved in supplying cocaine to as far as Australia and New Zealand.
It identified the cartel as close associates of Moroccan traffickers involved in a violent feud in Europe which had claimed 16 lives.
The report also said the Kinahan cartel was involved in a “war” with the Hutch crime group which had seen at least 13 people killed in Ireland and Spain.
The research said Irish organised crime gangs were organising direct shipments of cocaine at source, from South America, to Europe.
It said cocaine production, as well as cocaine seizures in Europe, had reached record levels.
“It’s good the Kinahans are being named as they are drivers of this increase in Europe,” said one garda source.
“The real issue is the volume of cocaine coming into Europe and the volume of cocaine being produced in source countries. And it’s not the deprived communities that are fuelling this, it’s the middle to upper classes with expendable income who don’t really care but want to party.”
The EU drug report also stated that a similar trend to the “county lines” phenomenon in Britain was happening in other member states, including Ireland.
The term refers to gangs using vulnerable people, including teenagers and children, to transport drugs, mainly heroin and crack cocaine, from cities into more rural areas. The system often operates through a single phone number managed by “elders” or adult gang members.
However, garda sources expressed scepticism at this finding.
“I’ve never seen that ‘elder phone line’ issue in use over here,” said one. “The reality is rural dealers always get their supply from the bigger urban centres and Dublin in particular.”
Another garda source said: “Saying the ‘county lines’ thing is here is rubbish. It sounds good, but it’s just drug dealing. Yes, most OCGs [organised crime groups] are city-based and supply satellite areas.
“Drug gangs have always used ‘gillies’ who are usually younger to courier drugs.”