THE GARDA have made the biggest cannabis seizure so far this year following an intelligence-led operation into a major organised crime gang that has been smuggling large shipments from Europe.
Detectives believe three men arrested as part of the seizure in Dublin were not big players in the gang which owned the drugs. An investigation into the key players was continuing last night.
The Irish Times understands the drugs seized, some 270kgs of cannabis resin with a street value of about €2 million, had been brought into the country by a syndicate of west Dublin dealers, most of them based in the Ballyfermot area of the city.
One senior Garda source said the well-known gang, led by two brothers, has been a key target for detectives in the city for many years. “They’ve been at it for a few years now, moving a lot of drugs around and while we’ve got some of them before, this seizure is definitely a big blow to them.”
The operation led by the Garda National Drugs Unit has been ongoing for a number of weeks. Officers from the specialist unit received intelligence suggesting some of the narcotics would be moving through Dublin city centre on Tuesday night.
Gardaí stopped a van on Arran Quay in Dublin’s south inner city on that night. An initial search of the van yielded nothing and the vehicle’s 60-year-old driver was not then arrested.
However, his van was taken away by officers and searched on Wednesday morning.
On examining headboards and other bed components in the van, the Garda search team realised the wooden parts had been hollowed out and blocks of cannabis wrapped in plastic and duct tape concealed inside.
Some 200kgs of the drug, with an estimated street value of €1.4 million, was found in the van.
Officers had kept the driver under surveillance overnight and he was arrested at the Bridewell Garda station in Dublin’s north inner city on Wednesday morning.
Gardaí believe the drugs in the van were part of a bigger haul that had just been shipped into the Republic.
A search operation was put into action throughout Wednesday which led gardaí to a warehouse and office building in the Greenogue Industrial Estate, Rathcoole, Co Dublin.
More hollowed-out wooden bed parts were found at the premises and a further stash of cannabis resin valued at more than €400,000 was discovered.
A 40-year-old man was arrested at the scene.
Yesterday morning a 23-year-old man was arrested in Dublin city centre. He was the passenger in the van stopped on Arran Quay on Tuesday night.
Two men are being held at the Bridewell Garda station while a third is being held in Clondalkin station. All are being detained under section 2 of the Drug Trafficking Act and can be held without charge for up to seven days.
Garda sources said the investigation was continuing and that more arrests were anticipated.
CONOR LALLY, Crime Correspondent
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Garda drug seizure nets 270kg of cannabis worth €2m