This in today's Sunday Times in Ireland (see how that war on drugs is working everywhere....there's none so blind....):
Cocaine seizures double in a year
Nicola Tallant and Enda Leahy
THE cocaine market in Ireland is worth an estimated €210m and has increased almost 10-fold in just four years.
Provisional figures to be sent to Michael McDowell, the justice minister, will show that 300kg of the drug were seized last year by customs officers and members of the National Drug Unit. The haul was worth €21m, or €70,000 per kilogram, and is estimated to be just one-tenth of the amount coming in to the country.
NI_MPU('middle');This indicates a vast increase on preceding years. In 2004, a total of 160kg was seized, up from 117kg in 2003, and only 32kg in 2002. By comparison, less than one-tenth of a kilo (a mere 82g) of the class A drug was lifted by gardai in 1981.
Cormac Gordon, a detective chief superintendent at the National Drug Unit, said the record provisional figures were the result of increased garda intelligence coupled with a greater consumer demand for the drug.
“It is certainly more available now than it has been in the recent past,” said Gordon. “The increase in our seizures would be a result of our own work coupled with the fact that larger amounts are coming in at a more frequent rate.”
Gordon said cocaine used to be a middle-class drug but was now as likely to be found on Sheriff Street as in Donnybrook.
“The method of taking it makes it very attractive,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be injected into the blood and, as a result, it isn’t as visible as the likes of heroin.”
The chief superintendent said the drug was coming in to Ireland in large consignments. “Most seizures involve between five and 10 kilos of the drug.”
While there are no official figures on the total volume of cocaine circulating in Ireland, Gordon said it was internationally recognised that about 10% of drugs are seized.
Ireland’s cocaine comes from South America, where it is bought in Peru or Columbia for $1,800 (€1,400) a kilo. It is then shipped to northern Spain where dealers sell it in 5kg cargos. At 80-85% purity it is sold for between €30,000 and €35,000 per kilo. From Spain, it is trafficked into Ireland by couriers and disguised in cargos such as tiles and furniture.
Last year’s seizures included 6kg at Cork airport and 15kg at Dublin airport in October. In May, 17kg were discovered in Ballyfermot, 20kg in Cork and 25kg in Coolock.
Gardai said cocaine dealing was not confined to the capital and other large Irish cities. Networks have been smashed in Portlaoise, Killarney, Meath, Skerries, Maynooth and Louth as well as Limerick.
In Clare, gardai have increased their efforts in recent months after discovering dealers from Dublin selling cocaine and ecstasy. Last week James Breen, a local independent TD, tabled a question in the Dail asking for more dedicated anti-drugs officers after the county saw a 78% increase in seizures in the first five months of this year compared with 2005.
Liam Quinn, chief superintendent of the Clare division, said increased efforts by a new anti-drug unit had contributed to the rise in figures, but admitted there was now “serious availability all over the country”.
“As long as people’s sons and daughters are taking cocaine the demand is there,” said Quinn. “Celebrities in the media taking it, like Kate Moss, aren’t really helping — it makes it like a designer wrist watch, a must-have fashionable item.” Despite cocaine’s increased popularity, cannabis resin is still the most widely used drug in Ireland. Provisional 2005 figures, which will be included in the next Garda annual report, show that six tonnes of cannabis were seized last year.