THE cocaine recovered from a yacht intercepted by the Naval Service off the Irish coast has quadrupled in value to more than €350m.
The revelation means the seizure on the Makayabella last September now ranks as one of the biggest drug seizures in Irish history.
Garda sources admitted they were “very surprised” to discover that the 41 bales of cocaine recovered were found to have one of the highest purity levels ever recorded.
The shipment was initially thought to have a street value of €80m but this has now been revised upwards to around €350m.
Tests are ongoing but the cocaine is believed to have originated from Colombia, possibly from the Medellin area.
The 28-year old Makayabella was intercepted by the Naval Service on September 23 off the south-west coast.
It was boarded 250km off Mizen Head by an armed LE Niamh team and 41 bales of cocaine were recovered.
The 19-meter yacht was escorted into Haulbowline Naval Base with the operation being hailed as a victory for multi-jurisdictional inter-agency co-operation.
In seven years, three drug seizures off the Cork coast alone – all of which involved ocean-going yachts which had visited the Caribbean and Central America – accounted for more than €1bn worth of cocaine.
The largest seizure remains the €440m of high-grade Colombian cocaine seized in Dunlough Bay in Cork in July 2007.
That smuggling plot was scuppered when the UK gang overloaded a smaller boat used to ferry the drugs ashore and accidentally filled a spare fuel tank with diesel instead of petrol.
Their small boat, helpless without power after the outboard engine failed, capsized in heavy seas.
A total of 62 bales of Colombian cocaine were left floating in the bay with a purity level of more than 75pc and a street value of €440m – more than double what gardai had originally anticipated.
In November 2008, the yacht Dances With Waves was intercepted by the Naval Service, gardai and Customs & Excise almost 100km off the west Cork coast.
The yacht was found to be carrying 1.5 tonnes of cocaine destined for the UK market.
However, the huge shipment, because its purity was not as high as the Dunlough Bay seizure, was eventually given a street value of under €400m.
Senior garda officers are now also deeply concerned at the increase in guns being smuggled into the country with drugs shipments.
Detectives from the Garda National Drugs Unit have seized 20 firearms, including two machine guns and several automatic handguns, over the past twelve months.
This is the biggest haul of guns uncovered with drugs consignments for several years.
Official Irish drug seizures last year had a value of €62m but does not include the Makayabella.