Gardaí have seized nearly €40 million worth of drugs and over €3.6 million in cash so far this year as drug trafficking continues to rise across the country.
An analysis of aggregate figures reported by Gardaí over the seven months to yesterday shows that over €37.5 million worth of cannabis, cocaine and heroin have been seized in 81 separate operations.
Security sources say 2022 looks set to be another record year as drug seizures by Gardaí and customs have reached unprecedented levels over the past three years.
The value of narcotics seized by organized crime gangs this year has already reached a record €37 million in 2020.
It also accounts for about half of what was taken off the streets in 2021 – the highest on record – bolstered by the unprecedented seizures of two huge shipments of cocaine, collectively worth nearly €50 million.
The dramatic increase in seizures, particularly of cocaine, has been repeated across the EU as the supply and demand for narcotics continues to grow at an alarming rate.
The Garda Drugs and Organized Crime Bureau (GDOCB), working closely with Customs, was responsible for most of the seizures.
Totals do not include pure customs operations, which have seen over €11 million intercepted so far this year.
However, despite the successes, Gardaí confirm that no related shortages or droughts have been reported as illegal drugs are readily available in every town and village in the country.
Based on the analysis of seizures, cannabis remains the most popular drug with values seized worth over €18 million, followed by cocaine worth over €11.5 million.
The figures also point to a worrying upward trend in heroin abuse in recent years, with the drug being seized in the same seven-month period worth €5.6 million.
Of the 81 drugs seized that year, 12 had an individual value of between €1.1 million and €6.9 million, accounting for over €26 million of total shipments.
In a 24-hour period between July 11 and 12, two joint operations between GDOCB and Customs resulted in the seizure of €6.9 million worth of cocaine and cannabis ranging from €8 million to €1.1 million.
Several shipments of drugs – including heroin, cannabis and cocaine – were also seized, suggesting gangs are pooling their resources to supply different markets simultaneously.
While it’s impossible to quantify the true value of the underworld industry, the international estimate is that between 5 and 10 percent of narcotics are intercepted – which is widely considered overly optimistic.
Growth in demand for cocaine in the EU has more than doubled in recent years and is estimated at over €13 billion. On a per capita basis, Ireland is now the third highest user of the drug in Europe. The drug’s potency has also increased, with an average deal containing 75 percent pure cocaine, compared to about 40 percent four years ago.
Europol’s Serious and Organized Crime Threat Assessment recently found unprecedented amounts of cocaine being smuggled into Europe.
The four-yearly review of crime trends in the EU found that, as a result, organized crime poses a greater threat to Member States than ever before, with gang-related violence continuing to rise.
As demand increases, the South American cartels, which supply directly to the likes of the Kinahan cartel, are supplying record amounts of cocaine.
They have devised ingenious methods of getting it to market, even using purpose-built submarines to transport it across the Atlantic to the West African coast, from where it is transported to Europe via well-established supply lines.
The cartels also use more sophisticated methods.
Last year, the GDOCB led an international operation to intercept €35 million worth of cocaine disguised as charcoal bound for the Irish market.
The half-ton of drug, believed to have been purchased directly from the South American cartels by the Kinahans and their allies, has been chemically altered to look like charcoal.
It was contained in 2,000 20kg sacks, which were initially intercepted in Rotterdam when the group failed to collect it, and then returned to Ireland by authorities.
Gardaí and Customs sources say that while they have no hope of eradicating the illicit drug trade in the face of such overwhelming demand from ordinary Irish citizens, they are embroiled in a process of containment and disruption.
“It’s a bit like cutting weeds in the garden; When we attack and disrupt organized crime gangs, the point is to curb organized crime as much as possible,” a senior court said.
“But the demand out there is so great that as soon as one outfit is out of the picture, another pops up.
“There is no doubt that we are seriously hurting a lot of people and you only have to look at how many of the Kinahan and Byrne cartels are now behind bars. Our goal is to ensure that no other criminal organization can grow as big again.”
Sources say that although the Kinahan cartel’s operations have been seriously disrupted and time is running out for its leadership, it is still a significant supplier to the Irish and UK markets.
Daniel Kinahan, his father Christy and brother Christy Jr., along with their closest associates, have become virtual prisoners in their Dubai hideout.
It follows US law enforcement’s dramatic announcement in April that they are now actively targeting the Kinahan and imposing sanctions.
The US Treasury Department also offered a $5 million bounty for information leading to the arrest and conviction of each of the three family members.
Despite the enormous pressure he is now under, Daniel Kinahan is said to have attempted to reorganize his operation with the help of other international crime syndicates.
Gardaí say they have recruited Irish and foreign nationals, unknown to law enforcement, to run a franchise.
It comes after the conviction of over 80 gang members here and in the UK, including leaders of the Byrne organized crime group.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/crime/2022-to-be-record-year-for-seizures-as-demand-for-drugs-reaches-new-levels-41881257.html 2022 will be a record year for seizures as drug demand hits new levels