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€100m seized coke was destined for the Irish Christmas market

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Cocaine haul

Cocaine haul

Cocaine haul

An entire batch of cocaine worth up to €100m that was hidden in a shipment of bananas was destined for the Irish market, senior security sources believe.

The container carrying the bananas and cocaine, which was discovered on a cargo ship in Portsmouth this week, was to have been collected by a truck and transported here.

Sources said the seized drugs from the Singapore-registered Star Stratos were an "all-Irish operation" involving a conglomerate of Irish criminals based in north Dublin and Spain.

The shipment, which was originally valued at just over €50m by British authorities, is now estimated by gardai to be worth "close to" €100m based on Irish street values.

The bust was the result of an operation spearheaded by the Garda National Drug Unit (GNDU), which has been targeting the organised crime group for several months.

They had been tracking the cocaine since it was loaded on to the ship in Colombia. It is understood that senior garda officers then briefed Britain's Border Force and National Crime Agency.

Detectives from the GNDU travelled to England to work with their British colleagues in a surveillance operation on the Star Stratos when it docked.

swoop

It was then decided to swoop before the drugs were picked up for onward transportation.

Intelligence sources were aware the conglomerate pooled their money to buy the cocaine directly from the Colombian suppliers.

Gardai estimate the group may have invested up to €3m, paying wholesale rates of €10,000 a kilo.

They were hoping to cash in on increased demand over the Christmas party season.

"The average cocaine deal in Ireland has a purity of between 10 and 15pc when it is diluted for sale," said a source. "Shipments from Colombia are up to 70pc pure, so this haul is likely to be worth closer to €100m.

"This was an all-Irish criminal operation involving a number of gangs in Ireland, and the load was destined for this country."

Sources said they do not believe that the international crime gang headed by expat Dubliner Christy Kinahan, known as the Dapper Don, was involved, though they have not "ruled him out entirely".

hnews @herald.ie


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