Ireland
This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

A number of 'firsts' in record drugs haul

There were a number of “firsts” in Tuesday’s dramatic drug operation in Irish waters.

It was the first time that the Army Ranger Wing (ARW) — the elite special forces unit of the Defence Forces — was used to storm a suspected drug supply vessel.

It was also the first time soldiers were temporarily made customs officers in order for them to legally gain entry to a vessel and take control of it.

In normal weather conditions and, moreover, where ship operators were willing to be boarded, this would not be necessary.

But this was a hostile situation in which the vessel — a 190m tanker — was trying to escape and the Naval Service ship LÉ William Butler Yeats had to fire warning shots across its bow in a bid to bring it to a stop.

Not only that, soldiers were having to force their way onto the deck of a moving ship.

There were other firsts. It was the first time over two tonnes of cocaine have been seized in Ireland or in its waters.

The 2.253 tonne haul is by some distance a record — the previous records, around the 1.5 tonne mark, were made some 15 years ago.

The haul has an initial value of €157m but, with a conservative estimate that it would have been diluted three times once onshore, it would suggest a final street value of around €470m.

It is also the first time a cartel-owned cargo ship was detained and brought into port by Irish authorities.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Commander Tony Geraghty, fleet operations officer for the Naval Service, conveyed the range of moving parts he and fellow officers had to handle.

“It’s an extremely complex joint operation, when you’re trying to coordinate surface assets, you’re trying to coordinate multiple types of aircraft, and when you’re trying to coordinate the Army Ranger Wing,” he said.

Tony Geraghty, fleet operations officer for the Naval Service, conveyed the range of moving parts he and fellow officers had to handle.
Tony Geraghty, fleet operations officer for the Naval Service, conveyed the range of moving parts he and fellow officers had to handle.

He pointed out that weather conditions made the operations “extremely difficult”.

He said a “great deal of skill” had to be shown by the pilots of the helicopter carrying the ARW insertion team, and that these soldiers also had to display equal skill in fast roping down onto a moving ship.

“I don’t know the exact height that the helicopter was off deck but you’ve all seen the images of the ship and you’ve seen how high the various structures were on that,” the commander said.

“You’re trying to keep an aircraft, a rotor wing aircraft, in a certain position over a ship that’s moving," he said. 

"So, you’ve got a ship moving, you have an aircraft moving and then you’re deploying your own assets on top of that. 

"The conditions were very challenging as well so it made it extremely challenging.” 

Commander Geraghty also said that before deploying the ARW they were “trying to predict the reactions” of the criminals on board the ship and how that might impact the ARW or the helicopter.

Sources have told the Irish Examiner that this was an unknown, but potentially serious, risk.

“This is a cartel ship, to carry drugs, there was no legit cargo, so we did not know could they open fire on us with some weapon or if crew members might confront the ARW,” said one source.

As it turned out some crew members were busy trying to set the cocaine consignment on fire and dump bales into life rafts.

It is understood that none of the cocaine was destroyed and that only outer packaging was melted.

The commander praised those involved and said such an intense operation was “extremely difficult mentally and physically” on those involved.

Gerry Harrahill, director general of Customs, confirmed the size of the haul and said the possibility of diluting the very high purity of the cocaine depends on what the organised crime gangs intend to do with the product.

Gerry Harrahill, director general of Customs, said the possibility of diluting the very high purity of the cocaine depends on what the organised crime gangs intend to do with the product. 
Gerry Harrahill, director general of Customs, said the possibility of diluting the very high purity of the cocaine depends on what the organised crime gangs intend to do with the product. 

Sources said that gangs immediately taking charge of cocaine being imported from South America would generally dilute it three-fold and that local gangs being supplied with the product may further dilute — though cocaine purity on the street has increased in recent years.

Assistant Commissioner for organised and serious crime Justin Kelly said there could be a “wide variety of increased values”.

Based on the consignment being diluted three times, it would suggest around 6.7 tonnes hitting the street, worth an estimated €470m.

Asst Comm Kelly suggested that a portion of the 2.25 tonnes would have been destined for Ireland with the rest destined for other European countries.

He did not accept South American cartels see Ireland and Irish-controlled waters as a relatively easy way to access the European market.

“Organised crime groups will always look for any weakness anywhere they can,” he said.

“Where they can import drugs into countries they will, but as to whether Ireland is perceived as a weaker entry point, I wouldn’t accept that.” 

Assistant Commissioner Justin Kelly suggested that a portion of the 2.25 tonnes of cocaine would have been destined for Ireland with the rest destined for other European countries.
Assistant Commissioner Justin Kelly suggested that a portion of the 2.25 tonnes of cocaine would have been destined for Ireland with the rest destined for other European countries.

He pointed out that huge seizures are being made across Europe, referring to record hauls in recent months in Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and Spain.

He said there are “a number of groups” within Ireland, not just the Kinahan cartel, who have direct links to South America and have the capability of importing large quantities of cocaine.

Asst Comm Kelly said the seizure highlights the “increase in the amount of cocaine available”.

He cited geopolitical reasons in South America and said there is now “a glut” of cocaine on the market and that the “biggest market” is Europe.

“It’s inevitable that we’re going to see organised crime groups trying to leverage on that to make more money," he said. 

"I think, absolutely, it’s inevitable we’ll see more large shipments.”