Trafficker blow | 

Shipping containers filled with cocaine escorted into Dublin port by Irish Navy after Dutch seizure

The investigation involves a particular focus on a suspected attempt to traffic cocaine into Ireland from Columbia

The 'charcoal' cocaine discovered in Spain last month

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

Shipping containers believed to be filled with pure cocaine were escorted into Dublin Port last night by the Irish Navy after being seized in Rotterdam.

The half a tonne of suspected cocaine - worth up to €30 million - was discovered in the containers at Rotterdam Port last month by Dutch officials.

However, the Dutch police have now sent the shipment to Ireland because the operation was initiated by gardai from the National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau

The officers, who are supported by Revenue Customs Service and Irish Naval Service, played a key role in the operation which was coordinated through Europol and includes Dutch police.

The investigation involves a particular focus on a suspected attempt to traffic cocaine into Ireland from Columbia, utilising “intermodal” containers.

“In the course of the relevant investigation, the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau has taken possession of particular containers, following their arrival in The Netherlands,” a garda spokesman has said.

“It is suspected that a quantity of cocaine may be concealed in the containers.

“However, the presence of cocaine within the containers cannot be confirmed until such time as necessary examination and analysis is undertaken.”

The drugs that are believed to be worth more than €30 million were disguised as charcoal in a bid to throw sniffer dogs off the scent.

The haul was smuggled into Holland by one of the major drug cartels in Colombia after a major Irish crime gang operating here, in the UK and across Europe masterminded the shipment through their South American contacts.

It was due to be distributed by gangs, believed to include the Kinahan cartel, across Ireland and the UK after it arrived here.

Daniel Kinahan

However, after it was intercepted, the Navy ship monitored the removal of the drugs to Dublin Port where the shipment was to be analysed to establish its full value.

It’s understood that this is the first time coke disguised as charcoal was destined for the Irish market.

The tactic has been used by smugglers using a complex chemical process to camouflage the drugs as charcoal in an effort to render it undetectable to sniffer dogs.

Last month, three people were arrested after Spanish police swooped on a gang that had been smuggling hundreds of kilos of cocaine into Europe by disguising it as charcoal.

Officers from Spain’s national police and Portugal’s judicial police launched an investigation last year after noticing that a trading company was using a variety of front organisations to carry out suspicious imports.

Close surveillance then led them to a port where the contents of two containers of charcoal tested positive for cocaine.

Officers discovered the gang had placed 30 sacks of “cocaine charcoal” among 1,364 sacks of real charcoal.

Officer from both jurisdictions then tracked the two containers as they were taken by lorry from Portugal to northern Spain, where their contents were due to be separated and the cocaine recovered in a laboratory.

Police moved in as the lorries arrived at the gang’s base on an industrial estate in the town of Medina del Campo, in Spain’s northern Castilla y León region.

Three people were arrested and 862 kilos of cocaine were seized.

“The modus operandi involved using a complex chemical process to camouflage the drugs as charcoal, a process that was carried out by the Mexican and Colombian cartels who supplied the alleged kingpin,” the Spanish force said in a statement.

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