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Huge haul Gardai seize half a tonne of 'black cocaine' worth €35 million disguised as charcoal

The containers arrived at Dublin Port last Saturday night and were brought ashore under armed escort

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Some of the 'black cocaine' seized in the containers

Some of the 'black cocaine' seized in the containers

Some of the 'black cocaine' seized in the containers

Gardai have described the seizure of half a tonne of suspected "black cocaine" worth €35 million in two shipping containers as a “significant development” in their efforts to disrupt and dismantle organised crime groups. 

Investigators had been waiting for the shipment that contained the cocaine that was disguised to look and feel like charcoal when it arrived in two containers in Rotterdam Port last month.

South American drug cartels have been disguising cocaine as charcoal for a number of years, with numerous shipments transported like this.

The traffickers add charcoal and other chemicals, which transform the drug into a black substance that has no smell and does not react when subjected to the usual chemical tests.

The containers were placed under surveillance but no one turned up to collect them.

The authorities in Holland then agreed to allow the shipment continue on to Ireland, this time under guard of the Irish Navy, as Irish customs and gardaí had been behind the operation to track the shipment.

The Dutch police had agreed to send the shipment to Ireland because the operation was initiated by gardaí from the National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

The officers, who are supported by members of the Revenue Customs Service and Irish Naval Service, played a key role in the operation which had been coordinated through Europol and had also included work by the Dutch police.

The containers arrived at Dublin Port last Saturday night and were brought ashore under armed escort.

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Some 2,000 bags were found.

Some 2,000 bags were found.

Some 2,000 bags were found.

Gardai said today that the two containers were found to contain up to 2,000 bags of charcoal.

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“However, through utilisation of Garda dogs and a mobile x-ray scanner in the possession of Revenue & Customs, anomalies were discovered in respect of a number of bags which purported to be charcoal,” they added.

“The services of Forensic Science Ireland have been utilised to confirm the presence of cocaine in those bags identified through the scanning process as indicating anomalies with regard to their content.”

Gardaí added that an initial examination undertaken by the FSI would tend to confirm the suspicion held by the Garda Síochána that the two shipping containers may have been used in an attempt to transport up to half of a tonne of cocaine into Ireland.

“In the event that the full consignment of cocaine has been discovered, it has a potential street sale value of up to €35 million,” gardai said. “However, it will take a number of days and perhaps longer for FSI to extract the cocaine from the product within which it is concealed.”

Gardai added the investigation being undertaken by the Garda National Drugs & Organised Crime Bureau “continues to progress” and it is anticipated a number of suspects will be arrested in the near future.

Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll, who is assigned to Organised and Serious Crime within the Garda Síochána said: “This is a significant development in the Garda Síochána’s effort to disrupt and dismantle organised crime groups suspected to be involved in the importation of cocaine and other drugs into Ireland.

“This operation, in which the Garda Drugs & Organised Crime Bureau is taking a lead role, has a significant international dimension and again emphasises the importance of cooperation within the law enforcement community within Europe and further afield."

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