Wednesday 22 January 2020

'Cash goes out, cocaine comes in' as customs officers seize €400k

Senior customs officer Joe Keane pictured with some of the recent seized haul in the cargo area of Dublin Airport
Senior customs officer Joe Keane pictured with some of the recent seized haul in the cargo area of Dublin Airport

Cash has been leaving Dublin Airport and cocaine has been coming in - but customs officers have been catching the criminals behind it.

Over the past year, the eagle-eyed officers have seized €400,000 across a number of hauls - a 50pc increase on last year - and many kilos of cocaine.

"We're lucky we're that little bit removed from mainland Europe because most of the cocaine is stopped before it reaches here," said Brenda Hearn, manager of operations for customs enforcement at Dublin Airport.

"But there's a sizeable market in Ireland and that is serviced by criminals and it's why it's coming through Dublin Airport.

"It's a multi-billion-dollar industry but the criminals have to be lucky all the time to get the drugs through the EU. We only have to be lucky once, to stop them.

"It's illegitimate cash, so cash goes out and product comes back. As a result we are very focused on that activity.

"It's probably about a 50pc increase up from last year at Dublin Airport but that can vary. There can be one big seizure which can fudge the figures.

"There was one particularly large amount, but it's an ongoing case, so I can't go into detail about it."

Customs officers work with outside agencies, who have also stated just how major a problem cocaine use is in Dublin currently.

The latest drug treatment figures from the Health Research Board show a 50pc increase in cocaine treatment cases between 2017 and 2018.

The criminals who attempt to transport the drugs into Ireland are not only causing addiction and health problems among the general population - they are also manipulating and sacrificing young women, who are used as drug mules.

"There's a desperation to conceal the drugs and this is down to poverty, absolutely," Ms Hearn said.

"I suppose they are a victim as much as anyone."


The drug mules mostly come from South American countries and customs staff are very much aware of the harshness of their lives and just how far they're willing to go to earn money.

"People still think they'll try and get cocaine and other drugs through," Ms Hearn said.

"If they swallow it, it's usually around a kilo, it's about €60,000 worth.

"There was a young man a couple of years ago, he died on a flight coming back to the EU."

Joe Keane, from customs enforcement, added: "Three kilos was the biggest amount of cocaine we seized and that was in a suitcase."

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