herald

Wednesday 18 October 2017

€80m drug yacht 'a stinking wreck' following storms

A FEARED Colombian drugs cartel working with a UK crime syndicate funded the €80m cocaine shipment seized by the Naval Service off Ireland's southwest coast.

The revelation came after the navy, gardai and Customs and Excise officers accelerated their plan to intercept the 60ft US-built yacht Makayabella amid fears it could founder in heavy seas.

It also emerged that British police are hunting four men seen off Rosslare in a smaller boat last week who may have been planning to rendezvous with the drugs yacht.

shocking

The Makayabella was taken on a long-term charter from a Grenadines-based firm that believed it would be kept in the Caribbean.

Instead, the 28-year-old yacht sailed from Trinidad to waters off Venezuela and took on board a shipment of Colombian cocaine. It then began a six-week voyage across the Atlantic.

But when it was boarded 250km west of Mizen Head, armed personnel from the LE Niamh found the yacht almost wrecked by storms. The sails were ripped and, shortly after being boarded, the diesel engine failed, meaning it had to be towed to Haulbowline in Cork Harbour by the LE Roisin.

The stinking cabin was also described as being "in a shocking condition", with the toilets having failed.

Assistant Garda Commissioner John O'Mahony confirmed that initial lab tests indicated that the 41 bales seized, each weighing 25kg, contain cocaine.

If it is found to have a purity level of 70 to 75pc, similar to the €440m haul seized in Dunlough Bay in 2007, its value could soar.

Mr O'Mahony said: "It is very, very difficult to be exact, but what we have seen in the past is that organised crime groups are pooling their resources to buy this product abroad and, when it comes into the UK it is transported, some of it to Ireland and some to the Continent.

"But we have seen instances where drugs have come in to this jurisdiction and have been divvied up and moved on to other jurisdictions."

The three Makayabella crewmen arrested - the 70-year-old skipper and a 35 and 28-year-old - are being held in protective custody. They are being questioned under tight security amid fears of possible retaliation by the drugs gang involved.

Two other men have been arrested in Yorkshire.

hnews@herald.ie

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