Ireland and the rest of Europe is experiencing a “perfect storm” in terms of a booming cocaine market, a leading expert has said.
Michael O’Sullivan, director of the EU drugs interception body MAOC-N and a former Garda assistant commissioner, was commenting after his agency was involved in the seizure of almost 25 tonnes of cocaine in 2019, compared to around 16 tonnes in 2018.
He said he does not see any let-up in the cocaine trade and said Irish buyers were getting their cocaine from “guaranteed Irish” criminals.
Mr O’Sullivan said dismemberments, such as that of 17-year-old Keane Mulready-Woods last week, are “rare” among European gangs and showed that the perpetrators cared more about “sending a message” than not getting caught.
His comments come as gardaí arrested a key figure in the Drogheda gang suspected of carrying out the murder of Mulready-Woods. He was arrested on an unrelated matter.
Mr O’Sullivan said the quantity of cocaine now being seized had not been seen since 2007.
“There’s a perfect storm,” he said. “There’s a growing market, there’s growth in the finances of criminal gangs, the production in Columbia has trebled in the last six to seven years, and people are consuming more.
“In Ireland, people have more money. Many young, intelligent people buy it at the weekend or at parties. They might say they only buy it now and again but have no problem spending €200 over a weekend.”
He said recreational buyers are “so far removed” from the reality of the market and “don’t want to see the trail” it leaves behind.
“They’ll say they got it from Jimmy, from college, and he’s sound,” said Mr O’Sullivan. “But Jimmy got it off a guy, who got it off a guy who imported it.
“The cocaine they are enjoying with their friends is supplied by Irish criminals, guaranteed Irish brand criminals, the kind who they hear about running around with guns.”
Mr O’Sullivan said he does not see the cocaine boom ending any time soon.
“The only thing that stopped the cocaine business was the recession,” he said. “So, do I see globally cocaine reducing? No, I don’t. It’s up and running in South America, the market is there in Europe, in most countries, and certainly in Ireland. There’s a product that people want to spend money on and lots of criminals want in on it.”
Mr O’Sullivan said the profits from cocaine “cascaded” all the way down the supply pyramid, meaning little groups of criminals were popping up all over Ireland.
“The level of profit they can earn never really happened in drugs before,” he said. “They have lots of money and lots of firearms and see themselves as Al Capone or young generals.”
He said the dismemberment showed how “reckless” some of these gangs were.
“They don’t care about police or society or the consequences,” said Mr O’Sullivan. “They care more about making an impression and sending a message than getting caught or the cruelty of their actions. It shows you the nature of these people”.
He said the cases are rare in Europe, but can happen, citing one case in Amsterdam in 2016.