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Seventh arrest made over cocaine seizure from ship off Cork coast

A seventh man has been arrested in connection with the State’s largest cocaine seizure from a ship off the Cork coast

Six men were already in garda custody being questioned in connection with the seizure of 2.25 tonnes of cocaine which may have a street value of up to €500m. Three of these men are Ukrainian, two are Iranian and one is a UK national.

Two men were initially arrested and detained in Wexford after they were rescued from a fishing vessel which ran aground some 12kms off the Rosslare coast on Sunday night.

More arrests were made after a 190m bulk cargo vessel was intercepted by armed elite Defence Force members, the Navy and gardaí off the Cork coast on Tuesday. It is believed that this larger vessel was due to offload cocaine onto the smaller fishing vessel before it ran aground off Wexford.

On Thursday, gardaí confirmed that a seventh person had been arrested. They said that the man was arrested for alleged organised crime offences contrary to the Criminal Justice Act 2006.

Some 25 crew members were found on the larger ship on Tuesday. Colombia’s biggest drug cartel, the murderous Gulf Clan group, is suspected of involvement in the operation. An Albanian-led European criminal consortium is also suspected of involvement.

Former Navy Commander Eugene Daly said that it was conceivable that on a ship of that size, some crew may not have been aware of the ship’s deadly, illegal cargo.

An examination of the 'mothership' the MV Matthew is underway under armed guard in Cork Harbour. Searches have begun internally and will continue until at least the end of the week, a Defence Forces source said.

Divers will be sent to inspect the hull and search the vessel externally for any possible attachments that could be torpedoed or dropped to the sea floor for later collection.

“You’ll have to start at the stern and come all the way back — every compartment, water tank, fuel tank," a source said.

“Then they’ll probably have to rip it apart internally to see if there’s anything hidden in panels.” Gardaí, customs officers, navy officers and shipwrights will all likely be involved in the search, which could take a team of up to 100 people, a source said.