NewsCrime Desk

700 per cent rise in seizures of African drug Khat

700 per cent rise in seizures of African drug Khat

CUSTOMS officials have seen a massive increase in dangerous African drug Khat with €195,000 of the plant seized this year at Dublin Airport.

The African plant, which is generally chewed to give the user a sense of euphoria, can have devastating side effects – including bleeding on the brain, heart attack, liver and lung problems and impotence.

Airport customs seized 391kg of the drug in 2016 compared to just 53kg the year before.

The combined total of Khat seized was worth €26,750.

Ciaran Moulton, head of the airport’s customs enforcement unit, told the Herald: “We are seeing a lot of Khat coming in.

“It’s completely illegal and we’ve been seizing full suitcases of the drug.

It’s sold commercially on the street and it’s had a major growth this year.

“It isn’t for the Irish market and would be targeted at foreign nationals from Africa, who see it as having a cultural value – but it gives a high and we’ve managed to stop a great deal of it getting into the country.

“This plant is grown mainly in the horn of Africa, in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.”

Similar to speed, the leaf and stem are used as a recreational drug, causing the user to be more alert and talkative.

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists Khat as being a drug that creates “dependence” in those who use it.

In Somalia, civilian and military use of Khat has been blamed for fuelling civil war, damaging the nation’s economy, and hampering international relief efforts.

Last month, a vulnerable man with a brain injury, who brought almost 40kg of the drug into Dublin Airport from Kenya was given a suspended sentence on condition that he leave the country.

Shire Ali (41), a Somalian who has been living in Sweden for 16 years, travelled to Africa and was sent back with bags containing the drugs after just two days.

Ali, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to importation and possession of Khat at Dublin Airport on June 24, 2016.

Khat was outlawed in Ireland in 2014 but it seems to be increasing in popularity as a drug among the African community here in Ireland.