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Wednesday 20 November 2019

Garda seize drugs worth €260m in first half of year

Ed Carty

DRUGS worth about €260m were seized in the first half of the year, justice minister Alan Shatter has revealed.

And Garda figures covering the first seven months recorded 11,263 drug offences detected and 9,743 related arrests.

The successes were detailed after Mr Shatter was challenged on the law enforcement efforts being taken to prevent the cultivation of cannabis and trade in prescription drugs.

"The problem of drug misuse remains one of the most challenging and complex issues faced by modern society," he said.

The seizures included a 400kg consignment of high grade cocaine found in two raids in West Dublin and Kildare at the end of June and regarded as the largest ever inland seizure of the drug in Ireland.

Initially valued at €32m based on standard street valuations of €80,000 per kilo, when cut and mixed it is believed it would have been worth up to €200m.

Elsewhere in the fight against drugs, Mr Shatter detailed the importance of Operation Nitrogen to identify and dismantle cannabis grow houses.

Last year, officers raided more than 500 drugs factories on the back of Garda intelligence.

More than 26,000 cannabis plants valued at €10.5m - the vast majority of which were regarded as high potency - were seized and destroyed,

"This remains a key focus of An Garda Siochana drug enforcement efforts," Mr Shatter said.

Among the major successes this year was a raid on a house in late June near Menlough, Co Galway, which uncovered 800 plants worth about 640,000 euro (£520,000) and this month alone 480 plants worth 380,000 euro (£309,000) at a house in Lobinstown, Navan, Co Meath, and a warehouse at Drumaville near Malin, Co Donegal, holding about one million euro (£812,000) worth of plants.

"The drugs market and the consumption of drugs is a dynamic phenomenon and trends emerge from time to time - with users often trying different combinations of drugs, which sometimes involves the mixing of legal and illegal drugs, as well as various modes of consumption," Mr Shatter said.

"The emergence in recent times of large scale cannabis cultivation sites, the rise in the consumption of new psychoactive substances and the increasing illicit trade in medicines are particular features of the current drugs landscape we are facing at present.

"Our drugs law enforcement authorities remain very cognisant of this and proactively tackle new features of the drugs trade as they emerge."

The growing illegal trade in prescription drugs was also acknowledged as an increasing problem across the country.

Mr Shatter noted the success of Interpol's Operation Pangea V which has involved the Irish Medicines Board, customs and gardai.

Over one week at the end of September it targeted the online sale of counterfeit and illegal medicines and 282 packages carrying more than 120,000 tablets/capsules valued at more than €375,000 were seized.

Substances confiscated included weight loss products, treatment for erectile dysfunction and mood stabilisers.

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