Cocaine Worth €157 Million Seized From Ship In Ireland’s Biggest Drugs Haul Ever

An operation wherein over two tons of cocaine was recovered off the coast of Ireland is the greatest drug seizure in its history, gardaí (the Irish police) have informed.

Officials could recover 2,253 kgs of the drug after a Panamanian-registered vessel, MV Matthew, was stormed by the armed forces on Tuesday.

Relevant authorities said the cocaine had an estimated value of a whopping €157 million.

The drug was supplied by a “murderous” South-America-based cartel group, Justin Kelly, Garda’s Assistant Commissioner, reported on Wednesday.

The Army Ranger Wing stormed the ship with aid from the Air Corps, Naval Service, Garda National Drugs and Organized Crime Bureau, and customs officers.

Mr Kelly explained that it was a massive, significant, and transnational operation with unending cooperation from the international drug enforcement partners in the US, UK, Portugal, and France.

He said that the drugs were for Ireland and other parts of Europe.

Six individuals have been arrested as part of this operation.

The ship vessel had a crew of nearly 25, and the authorities mentioned that there may be more arrests and search operations.

Here’s how the raid unfolded

  • On Sunday night, a trawler ran aground off the Wexford coast, and a distress call was initiated.
  • This sparks a response from Ireland’s Naval Service, gardaí, a lifeboat crew, and a Coast Guard helicopter team.
  • Two men are winched from the vessel that remains wedged on a sandbank
  • From Sunday night to Monday, another ship, MV Matthew, gradually slowed down while it passed Wexford
  • On Monday around 06:00, MV Matthew changes its course and sets sail toward Ireland
  • On Tuesday, from 20:00–08:00 on Tuesday, the vessel stays static off the Waterford coast
  • Having left the position, the ship moves south-west toward the Atlantic but changes course at 11:30 on Tuesday; all of a sudden
  • Warning shots are fired by The elite Army Ranger Wing (LÉ William Butler Yeats), then storms the vessel
  • At 20:00, the ship is safely escorted to the port of Cork
  • The major multiagency operation followed an alert after a fishing trawler reportedly ran aground off the east coast on Sunday
  • The trawler made a distress call that sparked multi-agency responses involving the Irish Naval Service, an RNLI lifeboat crew, gardaí, and a Coast Guard helicopter team

Two men were winched to the safety of the stricken vessel.

It stays wedged on a sandbank off the Rosslare coast based in County Wexford, along Ireland’s southern coast.

The Irish broadcaster dubbed RTÉ reported that what had started as a rescue mission developed into a significant security operation.

Aid was requested from Ireland’s Defence Forces, which tasked the overshore patrol vessel named LÉ William Butler Yeats with two helicopters (AW139), a CASA fixed-wing aircraft, and a PC12 fixed-wing aircraft.

Irish authorities tracked MV Matthew over days.

Addressing media members on Wednesday, Gerry Harrahill, the revenue commissioner and director general of customs, said that the “theatre of operations” was made for a challenging recovery mission.

He added that while there was significant interest in the dynamic nature of the operation, it was essential to acknowledge how the seizure would benefit the people of Ireland.

He said that efforts have been extended to remove the probability of devastation and destruction to families and communities by making sure this product does not get on the streets, he mentioned.

Extremely complex day

Cdr Tony Geraghty, the naval officer, described Tuesday as a very complex day, particularly from a military perspective.

He said that this was owing to many agencies working on the operation and external pressure, including poor weather and the nature of those involved in drug trafficking.

He said that attempts were made to predict the actions of gangs and what impact they would have, he said.

He further confirmed that the members belonging to the Irish Naval Service sent out fire warning shots as the MV Matthew refused to follow instructions — this happened before military personnel boarded the ship.

Tánaiste, the Irish Deputy PM, and Micheál Martin, the Minister for Defence, commended all involved in the multiagency operation and the “bravery” of the Navy and Irish Army.

The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee mentioned that the operation was a huge blow to the organized crime gangs in drug distribution internationally.

Talking to RTÉ, Michael O’Sullivan, the former head of the EU’s anti-drug smuggling agency, the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre, mentioned that the Irish Naval Service was the unsung hero of Europe.

References: BBC, Independent

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