Tuesday 20 August 2019

Wave of cocaine

Sailors braved six metre seas to intercept the €700m cocaine yacht off the southwest coast, it was revealed today.

It’s the biggest drugs seizure ever here and three British men were today being quizzed by detectives about where they were destined.

The three suspects were named as Britons, Christopher Wiggam (42), Philip Doo (52) and David Mufford (44).

The 60ft Dances with Waves yacht sailed from the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean three weeks ago. It made a brief stop in North Africa before heading for the Irish coast.

Today the bravery of the Navy personnel, who boarded the yacht 150 miles southwest of Mizen Head, was revealed

Three Navy ships were involved in shadowing the yacht this week after it was tracked by US satellites. In all 200 Navy, gardai and customs officers were involved in Operation Seabight over the last 48 hours.

Seabight was co-ordinated by Chief Supt Tony Quilter of the Garda National Drugs Unit at Dublin Castle.

It followed a tip-off from the Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA) in Miami about the suspicious movements of the yacht. Dances With Waves was tracked every metre of the way from the Caribbean.

Navy ribs were dispatched by the patrol vessel, the LE Niamh in the early hours of yesterday to board the yacht.

Sources described how the boarding party braved six- metre waves to climb aboard the bandit vessel.

The Taoiseach and Defence Minister today hailed the operation.

The expensive yacht was expected to berth at an isolated pier outside Castletownbere this morning, having battled through what a Naval spokesperson described as “very rough conditions”.

Investigators will strip the vessel apart and bring the 70 bales of cocaine to Garda HQ at the Phoenix Park for examination. US experts will be able to tell them exactly which Latin American cartel organised the shipment – possibly ultimately bound for Britain or Spain rather than Ireland.

The three suspects were brought to Bantry and Bandon Garda Stations where they can be detained for up to seven days under drug trafficking legislation.

The drugs were in air tight and waterproof packaging.

Operation Seabight was co-ordinated by four international police forces including the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) in the UK.

The boarded yacht, Dances With Waves, was anchored about a mile off the southwest coast this morning as final preparations were being made for its landing.

Naval Service personnel are expected to begin studying charts and maps found on board to try and establish the yacht's intended destination. A naval spokesperson told the Herald that once the drugs are brought ashore gardai and customs officers will take full control of the operation.

“Once the drugs hit the quay wall, the naval involvement is finished,” he said, adding: “They haven't been tested yet but we understand they are of high level purity.”

Ireland's previous record cocaine haul came at Dunlough Bay in West Cork just 17 months ago and involved €440 million of Columbian cocaine which was traced to the Medellin area.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern confirmed the involvement of the Lisbon-based MAOC centre which was set up last year to tackle the increasing shipments of cocaine into Europe from South and Latin America.

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