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Gardaí join forces with Colombian police in new cocaine smuggling crackdown

A recent EU drug report said Irish gangs - including the Kinahan cartel - were becoming more significant in the global distribution of cocaine.
Colombian cops

Colombian cops

Robin Schiller

GARDAÍ have escalated their crackdown on drug gangs, including the Kinahan cartel, by boosting their intelligence sharing with police in South America.

The Cabinet this week approved a request by the Garda Commissioner to enter into a formal information exchange with the Colombian National Police.

The South American country remains the largest producer of cocaine worldwide and is a key departing point for ships trafficking the drug into Europe.

A recent EU drug report said Irish gangs - including the Kinahan cartel - were becoming more significant in the global distribution of cocaine.

It also said Irish gangs were increasingly establishing their own operations to transport cocaine to Europe, or even directly acquiring the drug in or near producing countries.

The new agreement between gardaí and the Colombian police will step up efforts to target these drug trafficking networks.

Last week in his meeting with the Policing Authority the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, warned of the increasing threat of global terrorism and organised crime.

He said gardaí must be in a position to respond to these threats and that partnerships with other security services and law enforcement were important in that regard.

The formal request to sign a letter of intent was received by the Garda chief following consultation with the Colombian Ambassador to Ireland.

It is a broad declaration from both police forces to co-operate and exchange information based upon agreements within an established framework.

The agreement was approved by Cabinet on Tuesday night, allowing Justice Minister Helen McEntee to sign the letter of intent along with her Colombian counterpart.

"The trafficking of drugs from Colombia into Europe and on to Ireland is a major issue, with recent intelligence indicating that Irish gangs are playing an increasingly bigger role," one source said.

"This agreement will boost the efforts to target these transnational networks and disrupt connections being made by criminals in both countries."

Earlier this year an estimated €30m worth of cocaine disguised as charcoal, believed to have originated in Colombia and destined for Ireland, was seized at Rotterdam port in the Netherlands.

The agreement comes after new liaison posts were created in a number of major cities, including the Colombian capital Bogota.

A senior detective, who was key in targeting the Kinahan cartel, was deployed there earlier this year on a five-year post.

The Government has said the deployment of these garda liaison officers has been effective in supporting the exchange of information, and the co-ordination of operations, across international borders.

A 2019 report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction noted that Irish gangs were among a number of European-based gangs becoming more involved in the trafficking and distribution of cocaine from South America.

"At the same time some European organised crime groups have established a presence in Latin American countries, developing a new 'end-to-end' business model for managing the supply chain, with large quantities of cocaine purchased near production areas at lower costs," the report also said.

It warned this may be driving competition and conflict within the cocaine market, leading to more violence and corruption.

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