A fishing boat has burst near the Canaries with € 250million in drugs first spotted by Irish naval officers a few weeks ago
A FISHING vessel that broke near the Canaries with € 250 million in drugs on board was first spotted by Irish naval officers a few weeks ago, it can be revealed.
Three men were arrested this week when the maritime trawler “Odyssey 227” was seized with 22.1 tonnes of hash on board after Irish information to Spanish authorities.
Spanish authorities are now trying to establish whether Irish criminals – including the Kinahan Cartel – joined forces with other major European criminal gangs to organize the expedition.
After monitoring the vessel for weeks, the Irish Navy Intelligence Section passed on their suspicions to a guard sergeant and a customs official based at the Irish office of the Maritime Analysis Center.
The Irish Navy identified the suspicious vessel while patrolling 12% of European Atlantic waters.
MAOC – led by former Garda deputy commissioner Michael O’Sullivan – then targeted the vessel 90 nautical miles from the Canary Islands with Spanish authorities.
The ship – from Morocco – was intercepted last Tuesday before the hashish was recovered and three men arrested.
Our spectacular photos show the moment the ship was attacked and the enormous transport uncovered.
Police camera clips capture cops climbing under the bridge where several brown packages were hidden.
It also showed the moment the ship was brought ashore, where a swarm of police awaited its arrival.
The arrested men were removed from the ship and handcuffed before being transferred to police vehicles.
The capture is one of the largest cannabis seizures ever made in European waters.
Spanish authorities also suspect that the ship’s cargo was to be delivered to gangsters in speedboats at a meeting point at sea.
Once received, the plan was to distribute the drugs to criminal gangs across Europe.
The captain of the ship and three sailors were arrested, it is understood.
Three of the arrested men are from Africa but have European identity cards.
“EXTREMELY HIGH LEVELS”
MAOC boss O’Sullivan explained how the drug importing business was orchestrated by organized crime gangs operating at “extremely high levels.”
Mr O’Sullivan said: “The Irish office of MAOC investigated the vessel and the intelligence services give immense credit for this seizure.
“There are ships that cause concern over a period of time and this is one of them.
“There will now be a lot of disgruntled criminal groups who will suffer a huge financial loss and this will also lead to their destabilization.
“They would have made a fortune with this shipment, but it’s gone – there’s no insurance policy.
“There are obviously Irish gangs that have a lot of money and all avenues to identify who was behind such a huge seizure will now be explored.”
The investigator added: “The transportation and importation of these drugs was at an industrial level.
“A load of this size would be spread across Europe and we are talking about organized crime gangs operating at extremely high levels.
“Our phase of the investigation was to provide intelligence – the Spanish authorities will now try to establish who was behind this, who paid for it and what gangs were involved.
Once recovered, the fishing boat was taken to a port in Gran Canaria.
In 2020, 23 vessels were seized by the investigations carried out by MAOC.
But so far this year, 21 ships have already been intercepted.
Currently, the vast majority of cocaine and cannabis smuggled into Europe is transported along the West African coast – known as the “10 Degree Highway”.
On one occasion last November, smugglers detonated a huge cargo when Senagalse’s forces attempted to approach it.
A submarine was also captured with three tons of cocaine at the end of 2019.
HUGE DRUG SHIPMENTS
And Mr O’Sullivan explained how there was an increase in huge drug shipments during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He added: “We have had a busy 2020 with foreclosures, but we are already on track to overcome that this year.
“We saw a marked increase because the money is in Europe and the drugs were still arriving in Europe.
“In a few days last year, the Spaniards seized four ships and it was unheard of before.
“The gangs in South America are getting more and more sophisticated and we have to adapt. This shows that the cartels are ready to use this mode of transport to bring drugs into Europe.
“Ireland will continue to play a key role in disrupting organized criminal groups who attempt to smuggle drugs into Europe.”
The former deputy commissioner of Garda also explained how the Kinahan organization remains one of the main players in drug trafficking in Europe.
“The KOCGs are, and have been for several years, major players in the illegal drug trade. It was once headed by Christy Kinahan, but that relay has now been passed on.
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“The Kinahan cartel has suffered a number of setbacks in recent years thanks to the excellent work of the Gardai and other European law enforcement agencies, but they remain major players in the European drug market.”
The Garda National Office for Drugs and Organized Crime also works closely with MAOC, which has a Garda liaison officer based in Madrid.
A garda liaison officer is also based in the Netherlands and France with a lead investigator who is due to be posted to Colombia in the coming weeks.