High-grade cocaine worth at least €20m found on cargo ship at Foynes Port in Limerick

High-grade cocaine worth at least €20m found on cargo ship at Foynes Port in Limerick

Foynes drug find: At least 300kg, and perhaps 500kg, of cocaine were discovered on board the ship. Photograph: Brendna Gleeson

David Raleigh

Wed Dec 20 2023 – 08:16

A consignment of high-grade cocaine with a value of least €20 million was discovered in a search of a cargo ship at Shannon Foynes Port in Limerick on Tuesday.

A security operation involving Revenue Customs Service officials, supported by An Garda Síochána, got under way at the port on Tuesday evening after the MV Verila, registered in Valetta, Malta, cargo bulk carrier docked at around 10.30am that morning.

The Irish Times understands at least 300kg, and perhaps 500kg, of cocaine were discovered on board the ship. That would result in a valuation by weight of between €20 million and €35 million, based on the stock Garda valuation of €70,000 for a kilo of cocaine.

However, Garda sources believe the haul was likely very high in purity, as most consignments of cocaine are at the point of import. That means the drugs could have been significantly bulked up, using mixing agents, before being sold on the streets.

That mixing and bulking process would potentially put an eventual street value on the consignment of between €60 million and €105 million. The same Garda sources said the consignment would need to be examined and weighed, and the purity levels determined via testing, before an official and final valuation could be placed on the consignment.

The drugs were concealed in a bale, and a buoyancy aid and GPS beacon were discovered with the drugs. Revenue officers and gardaí believe the consignment was due to be dropped overboard at some point, likely for collection from the sea by someone to bring ashore.

The 20,000-tonne vessel is believed to have been carrying grain. The cargo bulk carrier is flying under a southern European flag and is understood to have started its route to Foynes from a port in Canada on December 9th.

The ship was due to undergo a full examination on Wednesday, with the crew also set to be held in Ireland for interview as part of the investigation. Gardaí are trying to determine who was involved in the attempted smuggling operation.

Last September, some 2,000kg of cocaine, worth €157 million – the largest seizure of its kind in the history of the State – was recovered when the bulk carrier MV Mathew was seized by authorities off the coast of Co Cork.

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Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times

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