Two men from Northern Ireland have been arrested in an international police sting operation that prevented a major £2m haul of herbal cannabis reaching Ireland.
A combined operation involving the PSNI, gardai and Greek police has led to the seizure of 200kg of the drug in Greece.
Greek police confiscated the haul after stopping a lorry and searching a warehouse following an operation that began more than a month ago.
Searches were carried out in the Republic by members of the Garda national drugs unit in Allenwood near Naas, and other parts of north Kildare, as well as in Finglas, north Dublin, but nobody was detained.
Last night four men were in custody, three detained in Greece and a fourth in Northern Ireland. Police are satisfied that the haul was destined for the streets on both sides of the border and was to have been smuggled inside a container through Dublin port.
The lorry driver, a 36-year-old man from Northern Ireland, was arrested and was being questioned yesterday.
In a follow-up search at a warehouse in the Greek capital Athens, officers recovered another 100kg of the drug. Two other men, both Greek nationals, were arrested there while a fourth suspect, a 34-year-old man, was detained following four searches by the PSNI in Northern Ireland.
During a cross-border conference on organised crime yesterday, PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott said the timing of the seizures and arrests in Greece was purely coincidental but welcome.
“They are the result of much hard work by colleagues in a range of partner agencies and provide tangible demonstration of how partnership delivers results, making communities safer and creating a hostile environment for organised criminals, whatever the jurisdiction,” he said.
Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan both hailed the seizure as an example of effective police co-operation on the island of Ireland and also in Europe.
Mr Shatter said organised crime gangs continued to exploit borders for criminal gain.
”The strong co-operation that exists between our law enforcement agencies ensures that we tackle these gangs through a co-ordinated and effective response, disrupting their criminal activities, targeting those involved and seizing property.
“Tackling cross border criminality sends a clear message to the gangs they will find no safe haven on either side of the border”, Mr Shatter added.
He said one of his priorities was to continue to work at European level for the setting up in each member country of agencies modelled on the criminal assets bureau and boost co-operation in the seizure of the proceeds of crime.
The police operation was sparked off by a Garda investigation into another seizure at Dublin Port in October and officers believe the two hauls are linked. As a result of intelligence gathered by the three forces, Greek police stopped a lorry near Athens on Tuesday evening and seized 100kg of herbal cannabis from a container.