GARDAI have smashed an international drugs gang training couriers to swallow a kilo of cocaine in pellets and then import the shipment here.
A kilo of cocaine has a street value of around €70,000 and the top couriers were able to swallow a hundred pellets, each containing 10g of the drug.
Some gang members have been based here for the past decade and organised the training of couriers in mainland Europe.
The couriers were then sent to Brazil to smuggle the pellets into a variety of European destinations, including Ireland.
Gardai said last night that the cocaine-trafficking operation was highly lucrative for the organisers, who were mainly from west African countries.
The gang boasted of setting up an international network of criminal contacts and favoured eastern Europeans as couriers.
Officers from the Garda National Drugs Unit set up a joint operation with members of the airport police in Geneva.
The Swiss agencies were already working alongside the Spanish authorities to counteract the trafficking -- resulting in intelligence that pinpointed the involvement of gang members based in this country.
Operation Rotor involved lengthy surveillance as well as intelligence gathering on those believed to be key figures in the cocaine trade here.
One officer told the Irish Independent last night: "This trade was well rooted here as the gang had been using Ireland as a market for the past 10 years.
"Not all of the couriers were able to ingest a hundred pellets at a time but the eastern Europeans seemed to perform best at training and they comprised the bulk of those sent to South America to collect the cocaine for import", he added.
The gang tended to use high purity cocaine, which meant the street value often exceeded €70,000 a kilo, as the drug was broken down and mixed with other substances.
The extent of the trade here and into the UK has not yet been fully determined but is already regarded as substantial -- however, gardai are satisfied that the gang's trafficking racket has now been dismantled.
By Tom Brady Security Editor
Friday September 24 2010
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Gardai smash cocaine-trafficking racket