Four held as drugs ring busted in swoop on 'cocaine clothing'
Three men are in garda custody after they were arrested in an investigation into a high-tech cocaine smuggling operation.
Clothing containing the drug was being imported into Ireland from South America, it has emerged.
A woman in her 20s, from Kinsale, Co Cork, was also detained at a rented property on the outskirts of Bantry as part of a joint garda and customs investigation.
Details of Sunday night's raid on the cocaine lab were released yesterday.
Among those arrested were a father (51) and son (27), from the Clondalkin area, and a 26-year-old man from Baldoyle, Co Dublin.
The three are suspected of being "serious players" in the drugs trade.
The 27-year-old has a number of previous convictions.
The most serious was for violent disorder in which a man was savagely beaten up.
The probe into the cocaine operation was initiated after gardai and customs learned of shipments from Latin America to the rented two-storey house in Co Cork.
The cargoes consisted of boxes of fabric, with crystallised cocaine concealed inside.
Chemicals were used to extract the coke by liquefying it before it was dried into powder for sale and distribution. An estimated €200,000 of drugs were seized at the property.
Quantities of cocaine and equipment were seized in a number of rooms in the house which had been converted into illicit labs.
The State Laboratory has been analysing the haul to determine both its street value and purity. Initial indications were that the drugs came from Columbia or Venezuela. Both countries share a border.
It is suspected the gang was importing fabrics across the Atlantic, supposedly for sale in Ireland.
However, items of the material had become heavily tainted with cocaine during the complex soaking process.
Once in Ireland, the clothes would have been subjected to a special chemical wash.
The cocaine was carefully recovered, dried and then prepared for sale.
The plot represents one of the most sophisticated drug smuggling missions foiled by gardai in recent years.
Officers from the West Cork and Cork City divisional drugs units and members of the Revenue's Customs Service have spent days working on the investigation, and inquiries are continuing.
Properties in Dublin and Cork were raided on Monday as part of the probe.
Gardai believe they have smashed a major racket ready to peddle the drugs to revellers over Christmas and the new year.
The four suspects are being held in Bantry and Bandon Garda Stations.
The cocaine market in Ireland is worth around €100m, according to a study funded by the European Commission.
The Portfolio of Organised Crime in Europe report said the cocaine figure was part of a bigger sum of €1.7bn - the total estimated proceeds of organised crime in Ireland.