Police have arrested an eighth man following the seizure of £140million worth of cocaine in a helicopter raid on a cartel in Ireland, the biggest in the country’s history.
A total of 2,253kg of cocaine was found after members of the Irish Army Ranger Wing stormed the MV Matthew shipping container off the Cork coast by abseiling from a helicopter amid stormy conditions earlier this week.
The drugs originated from ‘a murderous cartel’ in Colombia and was supplying smaller vessels that would sail to the container ship from which the drugs would then be removed.
The ship has been under surveillance since the previous week, when a multi-agency operation responded to intelligence of a major international drug smuggling bid. It is believed the drugs were destined for distribution beyond Ireland, potentially into the UK and Europe.
The official valuation of the drugs has been estimated at around €157 million (£136million), but the street value is thought to be at least three times that amount as the dealers and local suppliers will cut the drugs with chemical agents to be able to sell more of it.
A total of 2,253kg of cocaine was found after members of the Irish Army Ranger Wing stormed the MV Matthew shipping container off the Cork coast
The ship has been under surveillance since the previous week, when a multi-agency operation responded to intelligence of a major international drug smuggling bid
The drug seizure was the first time the Army Ranger Wing has been deployed in such an operation
The eighth person to be arrested in connection with the incident was arrested for alleged organised crime offences contrary to the Criminal Justice Act 2006.
Six men are currently being detained by investigating gardai under section 50 Criminal Justice Act 2007, at garda stations in the south of the country.
A trawler that grounded off the Wexford coast late on Sunday last week was also being monitored. It remains stuck on a sandbank out at sea, with poor conditions preventing authorities from boarding to conduct a search.
Two men who were winched from the vessel appeared before Waterford District Court on Friday.
Jamie Harbron, 31, of South Avenue, Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees, UK, and 60-year-old Ukrainian national Vitaliy Lapa, of no fixed abode, were charged with conspiracy to import drugs.
They were remanded in custody to appear at Wexford District Court via videolink on Monday
The Irish police service, An Garda Siochana, said investigations are ongoing
The drug seizure was the first time the Army Ranger Wing has been deployed in such an operation. Poor weather conditions and the cargo boat’s immense size – measuring 190m long with an exceptionally high freeboard – meant that fast ropes were the only option to board.
Incredible video footage showed the moment assault-rifle-armed elite troops fast-roped down from a helicopter and stormed the Panamanian-registered vessel.
It shows the helicopter hovering above the 630-foot MV Matthew as the vessel makes a sharp turn in the water, with the Irish special forces abseiling down on to the ship before moving out across the deck.
It has since emerged that an Iranian captain of the ship may have been attacked by crew members as the ARW circled overhead. He received medical attention for his injuries and was arrested.
Earlier this week, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the drugs would have ‘no doubt been destined for Irish and European markets’ and this ‘will represent a blow to the organised-crime gangs involved in drug distribution internationally’.
Members of the highly trained Army Ranger Wing descended by fast-rope from a helicopter on to the MV Matthew (pictured) in the early hours of Tuesday, after the vessel became the focus point of a multi-agency operation which began on Sunday
Military personnel onboard the MV Matthew whilst it was being escorted into Cobh in Cork by the Irish Navy after a ‘significant quantity’ of suspected drugs were found onboard. Three men have been arrested on suspicion of organised crime offences
Stash: The seized drugs were displayed by the joint task force
Cops believe the ship was being used by Narco terrorists to smuggle drugs to Ireland and on to other European countries. The major multi-agency operation followed an alert after a separate boat (pictured as a helicopter hovers above on Tuesday) ran aground off the east coast
The MV Matthew is seen today moored at Marino Point in Cork which is being searched after a ‘significant quantity’ of suspected drugs were found onboard. Three men have been arrested on suspicion of organised crime offence
She said it shows the success of An Garda Siochana in building coalitions to tackle transnational crime.
‘Illegal drug distribution and misuse does untold damage to our communities. Criminals may seek to overcome the barrier of borders, but as shown today borders are not barriers to effective criminal co-operation’, she said.
‘Tackling organised crime is a key priority for Government and is central to building safer, stronger communities. We will always provide An Garda Siochana with the support and resources they need.’