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new deal Leo Varadkar signs agreement with Colombia in bid to tackle drug trafficking

The President said that Colombia is the country that seizes the most illicit drugs in the world

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Brazilian police share photos of a recent cocaine seizure

Brazilian police share photos of a recent cocaine seizure

Brazilian police share photos of a recent cocaine seizure

Leo Varadkar has signed a new police cooperation and security agreement with Colombia in a bid to tackle transnational crime and drug trafficking. 

The Tánaiste, who is in the capital Bogota signed the “letter of intent” to join efforts in the fight against international organised crime and drug trafficking with Colombian president, Iván Duque.

The President said that Colombia is the country that seizes the most illicit drugs in the world, representing "more than 40 per cent of all drug seizures in the Western Hemisphere”.

"I am pleased that we are strengthening security and defense ties,” Mr Duque said. “This letter of intent on joint police action has been signed today, to take advantage of the cybersecurity capabilities that Ireland offers to fight transnational crime.”

According to intelligence compiled by the EU’s crime agency last year, it was revealed how Irish drug gangs are gaining a greater share of the European cocaine market.

The report by Europol and the UN’s Drug Crime Office (UNODC) also said there was greater cooperation among crime groups, including the Kinahan cartel, and that cocaine seizures at Irish ports have increased along with a “significant” rise in supply.

A separate study by the agency found that Ireland had the fifth-highest cocaine use in Europe, with numbers across the continent expected to increase from the 4.4m users in 2020.

The ‘Cocaine Insights 1’ report, citing Europol intelligence, said that Irish drug trafficking organisations (DTOs) “appear to be gaining greater shares of the cocaine market in Europe” along with other gangs.

It says that a shift in the south American crime landscape has also allowed new actors to become involved in the cocaine distribution, including “less prominent trafficking DTOs (that) also originate from Ireland, Poland and Serbia.”

Europol adds that there is a “new phenomenon” of increased cooperation between drug organisations in Europe.

“One example of an attempt at collusion among different groups may have been observed in 2017 in Dubai, involving individuals with ties to Irish, Italian, Bosnian and Dutch DTOs,” it states.

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The meeting is a reference to the wedding of cartel leader Daniel Kinahan at the seven-star Burj al Arab hotel which was attended by a number of international criminals.

Among the guests were Chilean drug lord Ricard ‘El Rico’ Vega, Dutch-Moroccan mobster Ridouan Taghi, and Italian Mafioso Raffaele Imperiale.

Gardaí are continuing to build a case against 44-year-old Kinahan to charge him with organised crime offences in Ireland.

Europol and the UNODC also note that a number of city ports have had an increase in cocaine seizures- including Dublin and Rosslare.

In March 2020 an estimated €1.5m worth of cocaine was seized at the Wexford hub by gardaí, one of the biggest in Ireland last year.

It says that the Netherlands has consolidated its role as the “staging point” for drug shipments in Europe while noting that Belgium has also become a more used destination for importation.

To combat the mass-trafficking of cocaine, the EU police agency says that “risk-profiling” of suspect shipments and recipient companies can be strengthened.

“Authorities must also target corruption at ports, without which many illicit shipments could not happen, and ensure that whistle-blower mechanisms and anonymous reporting channels are in place and functioning adequately” it adds.

The fragmentation of the criminal landscape in Colombia, where a senior garda post was created last year to help fight organised crime, has also impacted on the European drug trade.

The disruption of a successful business model between the country’s cartels and established criminal networks has “provided the space for a broader range of emerging European DTOs to expand” their networks in Latin America.

Europol also warns of the emergence of Albanian-speaking networks, the increase in violence used by gangs, and the expectation that drug use will only grow in Europe.

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