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Street value of massive cocaine haul could be 'double or treble' its estimated €157m pricetag

LAST UPDATE | 9 minutes ago

THE STREET-VALUE OF the €157m drug haul off the south coast could have been even greater if the drugs were distributed, according to a senior garda.

A dramatic operation saw the Army Ranger Wing board a cargo ship and seize the suspected cocaine off the south coast yesterday afternoon.

Officers confirmed this morning that three people are currently in custody as a result of the probe targeting a South American cartel.

Members of the gardaí, Naval Service and Revenue Customs Service gave a press conference detailing the detention of the Panamanian-registered bulk cargo vessel, MV Matthew.

Senior Garda officers said specialists had determined overnight that the weight of the drugs as 2,353 kilos.

The weight makes it the biggest seizure ever of cocaine. In 2008, 1.7 tonnes of cocaine were seized off Cork with an estimated street-value of €650m.

But the value of the latest seizure could have doubled or even trebled according to senior officials.

Garda Assistant Commissioner Justin Kelly of the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau told today’s press conference that cocaine smuggled into Ireland from South America or from across Europe will see its value increased after its cut down by organised crime groups.

He said there’s a “glut of cocaine on the market” and that more large shipments are “inevitable” for Ireland, but that security officials would aim to prevent it being an easy target.

Kelly said the current estimate for a kilo of cocaine’s street value is €70,000, but this could move depending “on the market environment or the country” at that time.

“It’s really important to note that cocaine that comes into the country from South America or in fact any European country will be cut down further so it will actually increase the value of those drugs,” he said.

“So while that value is put at €157 million at the moment, it could be a wide variety of increased values around Europe when that stuff is moved.”

Agreeing with Kelly, Commander Tony Geraghty of the Irish Naval Service said the final street value is reliant on “what the organised crime gangs intend to do with product” when they get it into its target country.

Geraghty said gangs could “either double, treble or otherwise” the value of cocaine but cautioned against speculation.

“It’s why we use the value that we do. We don’t get into the business of speculating whether they’ll cut it down five times, ten times or 20 times – we just don’t know.

“But the one thing that we do know is the weight and value and it’s on that basis that we have the value of €157m.

Geraghty added that it was “too early” to speak on the purity of the cocaine seized from the MV Matthew.

A number of organised crime groups in Ireland have the capability to smuggle drugs in as attempted on the MV Matthew, according to Kelly.

When the senior garda was asked if this incident might be related to the Kinahan group, he said he would not discuss the cartel behind the operation at the moment.

He added that an operation as with this week’s requires a “significant outlay of money”, ranging from hiring a vessel and crew, to the “corrupting of officials across the globe”.

Additional reporting by Niall O’Connor and Daragh Brophy