A significant quantity of the massive haul of cocaine seized onboard a yacht off the Cork coast is believed to have been destined for Northern Ireland, it emerged today.
Analysis was due to be carried out on the shipment which is thought to be the biggest seizure in Irish history, and one of the largest in Europe this year, outstripping the 1.5 tonnes seized last year at Dunlough Bay in west Cork.
Depending on purity yesterday’s haul could be worth as much as €700m (£400m).
According to security sources a portion of the shipment was destined for the province.
One told the Belfast Telegraph: “The shipment would have been broken up and trafficked on to the UK and other parts of Europe. A significant portion would have ended up in Northern Ireland had this operation not been successful.”
Two men from the UK and one originally from Dublin were still being questioned today over the shipment.
They were detained yesterday at separate garda stations after armed|authorities stormed the 60ft ocean-going cruiser 150 miles off south-west Cork. It is believed the trio, aged between 44 and 52, had been at sea for a month.
The record breaking drugs haul came about when authorities — including the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Irish Joint Task Force on Drug Interdiction (JTF), comprising of Naval, Revenue Customs and Garda Siochana resources — launched an operation code-named Sea Bight following intelligence from European anti-drugs chiefs.
It is understood the drugs originated in the Caribbean and the luxury yacht, Dances With Waves, had been under surveillance since it left there.
Work was due to begin later today on stripping the yacht on which the cocaine was seized, however stormy weather conditions hampered its recovery.
Gale force winds and seven metre high waves battered the Dances With Waves, which was to be towed ashore under armed guard early this morning.
The vessel was expected to arrive at a small fishing port in Co Cork in the early hours of today, however, poor weather slowed the operation, which was led by the Irish naval vessel the LE Roisin.
It is understood the yacht, which is expected to be stripped down at the quayside, was packed with at least 70 bales of cocaine each weighing around 25 kilos.
The JTF has announced that it believes that this intelligence-led operation has resulted in “a significant, international success in drug interdiction”.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Justice Minister Dermot Ahern have praised authorities for the success.
Last year a cocaine batch valued at 440 million euro (£323m) washed up on the Cork coast near Mizen Head.