Ireland
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Gangs torpedoing cocaine from boats off Irish coast, former navy commander claims 

International organised crime gangs are torpedoing cocaine in parcels the size of bathtubs from boats undetected along the Irish coast, former Navy Commander Eugene Ryan has said.

The Irish coastline, known as the ‘cocaine highway’, has been increasingly targeted by organised crime to smuggle drugs as dwindling naval personnel and a lack of sonar capacity allow drop-offs to go undetected, Mr Ryan said.

A torpedo-type canister is secured to the hull of the ship by a magnetic field, said Mr Ryan, a founding member of international drug trafficking surveillance centre, MAOC(N).

“When the ship is approaching Ireland, they release the torpedo-like canisters underneath the ship.

“The magnetic force is gone and it detaches from the ship and sinks to the bottom. They're on timers. After a period of time — it could be two weeks, two days, whatever they want — the lock opens and the drugs float to the surface. 

“And then the people ashore would go out with their vessels and look for these things in specific locations.

“I worked in drugs for 15 years, particularly with the Naval Service and the Garda Siochána. We did know of a number of spots around the coast we used to patrol regularly where these things would float to the surface."

He said some would be 15-20 miles off the coast, others five miles off the coast.

Surveillance

Although Mr Ryan is aware of this technology’s use since the early 2000s, Ireland still lacks the sonar capabilities that could help intercept them.

“We don't have underwater capability, sonar capability, to search for these packages, or to search for mini submarines or semi-submersibles, or to patrol our internet cables.

“The Russians were down on the southwest coast recently and they were monitoring our internet cables that come across from the United States into Europe. We don't have the facility to keep those cables under surveillance and check if there's anything down there.” 

Other navies — particularly the British and US — do send ships to monitor the cables in international waters near Ireland, he said. But in Irish waters — the 12 miles from the coast — Ireland lacks the sonar capacity to monitor this crucial communications infrastructure, which if damaged, could cause major economic and social havoc.

“If those internet cables go from the States into Europe, you're looking at massive disruption of economies. Imagine if your internet went, what would you do? It's huge. So we do need this underwater surveillance capability,” Mr Ryan said.

And following the summer harvest of coca leaves and its processing into cocaine, drugs are now being packed and trafficked, with October and November being peak cocaine trafficking season, Mr Ryan said.

“The harvest is finished now. The coke will be ready. From now on, October, November, are the big months.

“They're packaging it now. And they'll be flooding the world, flooding through Venezuela, through Mexico. This is the time and this is when we need our ships more than ever, leading into the winter months.” 

Mr Ryan noted that the raided trawler would hold significantly more drugs than the quantity seized so far and it is likely it had already made multiple drop-offs before it was intercepted in Irish waters, arriving in Cork largely empty.