The ‘Cobh Agreement’ which has lead to worldwide seizure of €80bn worth of cocaine

A brainstorming session by representatives from seven nations 7 years ago was key to Wednesday’s €80m cocaine bust, writes Sean O’Riordan

The ‘Cobh Agreement’ which has lead to worldwide seizure of €80bn worth of cocaine

The irony is unlikely to be lost on the three men captured on a yacht laden down with more than a tonne of cocaine.

Just a few hundred yards from the Naval Service headquarters in Haulbowline, where they were formally arrested by gardaí on Wednesday night, is the aptly-named Commodore Hotel in Cobh. It was there in 2007 that representatives from seven nations met and agreed to set up the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (MAOC). This drugs-busting organisation led to their downfall, and to date, its intelligence-sharing operations have resulted in the seizure of more €80bn of cocaine from drugs ships.

The man who helped instigate its formation is retired Naval Service Commander, Eugene Ryan.

Since 2003, he had been mulling over the need for EU countries to share their resources in the battle against Mexican and Colombian drugs cartels flooding Europe with cocaine via transatlantic shipments.

“Talks culminated in a meeting which I hosted in the Commodore Hotel in the autumn of 2007. We had 45 delegates from seven nations as well as representatives from US drug enforcement agencies,” the ex-commander said.

“It became known as the ‘Cobh Agreement’ and I was a founder member of it on the Irish side along with Brian Smyth from Customs and Chief Superintendent Cormac Gordon — and Ireland was the first country to ratify it.”

Military, police and customs officers from Ireland, Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France and the Netherlands now cooperate on a huge scale with each other through MAOC.

“Before it was set up, we were not sharing intelligence — and drugs shipments were slipping through the net. The Joint Task Force (Garda, Navy and Customs) was set up in 1995 following the murder of Veronica Guerin and the Minister for Justice at the time, Nora Owen, told us to get our heads together and use our combined resources for concentrated action on drugs interdiction,” Mr Ryan said.

That was replicated by other countries and then amalgamated into MAOC.

“The amount of information which then started to flow (though MAOC) was fantastic. Without doubt that meeting in the Commodore Hotel has saved an awful lot of lives,” Mr Ryan said.

The latest operation which led to the seizure of the Makayabella brings to 4.2 tonnes of cocaine intercepted by this country’s security services on the high seas. Ryan, himself is credited with masterminding the biggest drug seizure in Irish history and his evidence helped put a British drug overlord behind bars for 28 years.

He gave vital evidence in the trial of John Alan Brooks, who organised a shipment of cocaine which the Naval Service intercepted on its way from Venezuela to the coat of North Wales in 2008.

Mr Ryan, who at the time was head of Naval Operations, sent in his forces to intercept Brooks’ shipment of drugs which were onboard the yacht Dances With Waves.

Operation Seabight, resulted in the seizure of €60m of cocaine.

Because of his work on Operation Seabight, Commander Ryan was given a prestigious award in September 2013 by the British Home Office along with West Cork-based Detective Sergeant, Fergal Foley.

They are the only Irishmen ever to have been presented with such an award. The drugs had been destined for the British market just like the latest shipment.

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