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National: €157m drug seizure was ‘largest in the history of the State’

A massive cocaine haul seized off a vessel off the coast of Ireland is now estimated to be €157 million, gardaí have revealed.

Bales of cocaine weighing more than 2.2 tonnes of cocaine were recovered off a cartel cargo ship off the coast of Wexford on Tuesday afternoon. The weight makes it the biggest seizure ever of cocaine in the history of the State.

Gardaí revealed that the drug was supplied by a “murderous” South American cartel group and was intended for distribution in Ireland and other parts of Europe.

The street value of the drugs could have been doubled or trebled in the hands of gangs, said officers involved in the operation.

The dramatic operation saw the Panamanian-registered ship, MV Matthew, stormed by armed forces and impounded on Tuesday. Warning shots were fired by the Naval Service LÉ William Butler Yeats when the ship refused to follow instructions. An elite Army Ranger Wing then fast roped onto the ship.

Three men, aged 60, 50 and 31, were arrested as part of the operation.

The vessel was escorted by the Naval Service to a port in Cork where it will be detained to allow for a detailed search and investigation by the relevant State agencies.

The Joint Task Force (JTF) involved in the seizure included members of the Irish Naval Service, Irish Air Corps, Army Ranger Wing, Revenue Customs Service and An Garda Síochána. The naval service’s offshore patrol vessel, the LE William Butler Yeats, was in action alongside two AW139 helicopters, one CASA fixed-wing aircraft and one PC12 fixed-wing aircraft.

The Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Sean Clancy commended the efforts of all personnel involved in the operation and said “I would like to personally commend the courage, discipline and professionalism of all personnel involved in this successful operation. This Joint and multiagency operation demonstrates the interoperability of Óglaigh na hÉireann, underlining the unique capability that we bring to the defence of the State.

“The significant intelligence led planning by the Joint Task Force enabled the coordination and execution of this complex multiagency operation. This operation demonstrated the importance of all services of the Defence Forces and their ability to operate in the most challenging of conditions.”