Specialist officers are examining links between a number of prominent haulage companies. They are also investigating whether truck drivers are being flown to France to return to ports here by ferry in trucks containing drugs, and other criminals are being sent to the continent to act as “minders” for shipments.
In the latest bust suspected to be linked to the gangs, gardaí and customs seized €1.3m-worth of cocaine and heroin in Rosslare Europort on June 19.
A Lithuanian national aged in his 30s was arrested at the scene and questioned for a number of days at Wexford garda station has since been released without charge, pending the preparation of a file for the DPP .
This suspect, who works as a truck driver, was arrested after he arrived to collect an unaccompanied trailer that had arrived on a ferry from Dunkirk in France.
“What is going on is one of the bigger drug investigations in Ireland at the moment. What is important is the analysis of phones and linking the activities of various transport companies to each other,” a source said.
The drugs that were found in the bust earlier this month were discovered in a hidden compartment of a refrigerated trailer that contained legitimate goods from France.
A prominent line in the extensive garda investigation is whether the seizure of more than 5kg of heroin and 8kg of cocaine at Rosslare Europort this month is linked to the same gang who attempted to traffic €2.8m-worth of cocaine through the port last November.
As part of that investigation, four people were arrested – including a man working in Rosslare Europort who was suspected of being the “inside man” for a massive drug distribution network.
All four were later released without charge and a file on that case is being prepared for the DPP.
November’s seizure also involved the interception by customs officers of an unaccompanied freight trailer from Dunkirk Port which contained a consignment of thousands of fish boxes.
The alleged drug importation “mastermind” has links to the Kinahan cartel and has been a major target for specialist gardaí for years.
The man was a “person of major interest” in a detailed investigation in September 2018, when gardaí seized more than €900,000 in illegal cash connected to the Kinahan cartel.
The cash had been concealed in bags containing onions, and gardaí believe it was due to be exported from Rosslare Europort.
Despite being questioned in that case, the man was not charged in relation to the seizure.
He is now suspected of forming an alliance with criminals based in the border region who have significant operations in counties Monaghan, Cavan and Armagh, according to sources.
With the Kinahan cartel under increasing pressure because of sanctions imposed on them by the United States, there are concerns that the gang involved in this distribution network could become major players as they interact with other serious crime groups nationwide.
Wexford drug squad gardaí are working with a team from the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau and other European police forces on the case, which is described as “complex” .
“This is bigger than any particular seizure, no matter how significant a single seizure is,” the source added.