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Sunday 22 October 2017

€22m cocaine seizure is the biggest in three years

Tom Brady Security Editor

GARDAI have seized the biggest shipment of cocaine in more than three years -- and the largest-ever inland -- in a joint operation with Customs.

The consignment is believed to be worth over €22m on the streets as the cocaine is pure and had not yet been mixed.

Last night a father and son from Dublin, a Corkman, a Hungarian and a German were in garda custody in connection with the seizure yesterday.

An estimated 80 kilos were found concealed in a consignment of fruit which had arrived in a container at Cork Port on a ferry from Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

It was seized after armed officers surrounded an industrial premises near Bartlemy, Fermoy, Co Cork, shortly after 4pm.

Gardai believe part of the shipment was destined for the Irish market while the rest was due to have been sold on the streets in the UK.

The seizure followed a lengthy investigation, spearheaded by the garda national drugs unit in conjunction with the Customs Service, and carried out with assistance from gardai in Cork city and north Cork, as well as Europol, Interpol and Dutch law-enforcement agencies.

The container was monitored as it arrived at the port and then kept under watch by undercover gardai for several days until the shipment was collected and brought to a galvanised shed with steel doors in the remote area of Bartlemy, outside Fermoy.

Officers think the gang intended to cut and mix the cocaine before sending it on for street distribution.

The street value of cocaine is €70,000 a kilo, giving the shipment of 80 kilos an initial value of €5.6m. But because of its high purity, it is reckoned that the cocaine would have fetched €22.4m after it had been cut.

A 45-year-old Cork man was arrested at the scene along with a 56-year-old German national.

In follow-up searches, a 65-year-old man and his 42-year-old son were detained in the south Dublin suburb of Crumlin. The older suspect's brother was a notorious drug trafficker a couple of decades ago.

Arrested

The fifth suspect, a 46-year-old Hungarian, was arrested in Cork city. Gardai believe they have arrested the main suspects on the Irish side of the drug-trafficking operation and inquiries are continuing here and overseas.

All five were detained under the drug-trafficking legislation, which allows gardai to hold them without charge for up to seven days, and they were being questioned last night at Cobh, Midleton, Crumlin and Terenure stations.

This was the biggest cocaine capture since the Dunlough Bay shipment in Co Cork in 2008. That haul was not intended for the Irish market.

Seizures dropped to 152 kilos in 2009 and fell again last year to 110 kilos. For the first seven months of this year, garda recovered 85 kilos, slightly more than yesterday's haul. The monetary value of cocaine seized in 2011 was €13.8m.

Last night the haul was removed to a secure location for a detailed analysis.

Irish Independent

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