€1.75m cocaine haul in Cork port shipped here from Colombia
THE €1.75m worth of cocaine seized at the Port of Cork is suspected to have been smuggled into Ireland from Colombia.
The seizure, by Customs & Excise Service officials, followed a routine examination of shipping containers being handled by the port.
Officials became suspicious of one container following an initial inspection on the basis of its freight manifest.
A close examination of the container revealed a total of 25kgs of cocaine hidden inside.
The seizure, which took place last Friday, was not confirmed until yesterday for operational reasons.
Customs have been working closely with the gardai and police forces in at least three other jurisdictions in relation to follow-on investigations to the seizure. It is expected that a number of arrests will result from the find.
The street value of the cocaine is estimated at around €1.75m. However, gardai stressed that the value of the haul could rise significantly depending on its level of purity.
The cocaine is believed to have originated in the Medellin area of Colombia.
It was found inside a container which had been shipped to Ireland via the Caribbean from Central America.
The latest seizure came after cocaine recovered from a yacht intercepted by the Naval Service off the Irish coast last year has quadrupled in value to more than €350m.
The revelation means the drugs seizure on the 'Makayabella' last September now ranks as one of the biggest drug interdictions in Irish history.
Garda sources admitted they were "very surprised" to discover that the 41 bales of cocaine recovered were found to have one of the highest purity levels recorded.
The shipment was initially thought to have a street value of €80m but this has now been revised upwards to around €350m.
In seven years, three drug seizures off the Cork coast alone - all of which involved ocean-going yachts which had visited the Caribbean and Central America - accounted for more than €1bn worth of cocaine.
The seizures - the two biggest of which occurred in west Cork in 2007 and 2008 - underlined the lengths to which European crime syndicates, working with the Medellin cartels, will go to get their product into Ireland, the UK and France.
The largest seizure remains the €440m of high grade Colombian cocaine seized in Dunlough Bay in west Cork in July, 2007. The cocaine had the highest purity of any seized.