Plastic, coffee, and ink holders used by 'more inventive' drug smugglers

Forensic Science Ireland saw "most sophisticated concealment" last year
Plastic, coffee, and ink holders used by 'more inventive' drug smugglers

The systems are becoming more complex with cartels in South America using “more inventive and sophisticated” methods of concealment than ever, Forensic Science Ireland said.

Gangs trafficking drugs into Ireland are using the likes of plastic, coffee grounds and ink cartridges to smuggle cocaine across the Atlantic, according to forensic experts.

The systems are becoming more complex with cartels in South America using “more inventive and sophisticated” methods of concealment than ever, they said.

In its 2021 annual report, Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) said drug cases drove their case load last year.

Figures show:

  • 55% jump in total number of submissions, from 16,588 in 2018 to 25,676 in 2021;
  • 23% increase in drugs and toxicology cases, from 9,577 to 11,747;
  • 14% increase in DNA (including sexual assault cases), from 6,190 to 7,043 

The report said: “In 2021, FSI saw an array of methods of drug concealment that were more inventive and sophisticated in nature than previously seen.” 

Cases included:

  • In October, 2.6kgs of methamphetamine powder was detected, embedded within plastic sheeting panels.
  • In October, 5.2kgs of MDMA powder was detected hidden under an internal plastic layer of two tool boxes.
  • In August, Revenue officers at Rosslare Europort seized approximately 88kgs of a product concealed in machinery being carried on a low-loader, using X-ray scanners and detector dogs 

The report said the “most sophisticated concealment by far” in 2021 was the high-profile shipment of coal that arrived into Dublin Port in July.

“This was a concealment that was more complex in nature than anything witnessed before,” it said 

The shipment comprised of two containers which held over 1,000 bags of coal in total, with the cocaine “incorporated into a chemical matrix of charcoal”.

It said the cocaine/charcoal mixture was prepared by drug traffickers “by a lengthy chemical process” and molded into shapes visually impossible to distinguish from the unaltered product. But the X-Ray scanner did detect suspect material.

“It is clear from our own reports that concealments have become more complex in nature,” it said, adding that the US Drug Enforcement Administration reported that drug-trafficking organisations throughout Columbia were concealing cocaine in plastic, coffee grounds and ink cartridges. 

“Therefore more seizures of this nature can be expected in the future for the drug section in FSI,” the report said.

Cold cases

Elsewhere, it said FSI reopened investigations into 15 cold cases in conjunction with the Garda Serious Crime Review Team and assisted identifying 13 human remains.

The report said there were now 58,703 profiles in the National DNA Database, including 43,471 of an identified suspect or convicted offender and 9,727 unidentified profiles from a crime scene. It said 759 hits were made in 2021, including 715 people linked to a crime scene.

These included 228 hits for burglaries, 126 robberies/thefts, 30 sexual assaults, 23 aggravated burglaries, 35 assaults, 12 firearms offences and 41 drug cases.

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