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Cocaine smuggling ring suspect held over £350,000 haul

By Laura Abernethy

Published 18/11/2015

A man has been arrested in Wales in connection with a drug smuggling ring believed to have trafficked cocaine from Ecuador to Northern Ireland.
A man has been arrested in Wales in connection with a drug smuggling ring believed to have trafficked cocaine from Ecuador to Northern Ireland.

A man has been arrested in Wales in connection with a drug smuggling ring believed to have trafficked cocaine from Ecuador to Northern Ireland.

The 37-year-old was picked up on Monday and brought to Belfast for interview yesterday as part of an investigation into a kilogram of the class A drug found in a house in Bangor in February 2011.

The suspect was seized in a joint operation between the PSNI reactive and organised crime branch and Dyfed-Powys Police.

Police believe that the high-purity cocaine, estimated to be worth around £350,000, may have entered Northern Ireland via an Ecuadorian smuggling route.

Alex Bunting, from the Forum for Action on Substance Abuse (Fasa), said that because the cocaine was of a high quality it probably would have been diluted before being sold on the street.

He added: "I would suggest that this was going to be cut numerous times. If this, for example, was 80% pure, it could be cut four or five times to maximise the profits.

"Cocaine still remains a very prominent drug in Northern Ireland. Like most other major urban areas of the UK, cocaine is used on a recreational basis at weekends by a lot of people. This has not diminished any.

"There was a period when the so-called legal highs had impacted on the sales of cocaine, but we certainly haven't seen it being eliminated from the drugs scene in any way."

Detective Inspector Andy Dunlop praised the officers involved in the investigation and arrest and said: "This underlines the PSNI's continuing commitment to identifying those involved in drugs trafficking at all levels.

"We will always robustly follow all available leads and we will continue to uncover information to identify suspects and pursue them.

"The public can be assured that every investigative opportunity will be explored and exhausted, even several years after the alleged crime, to ensure that those involved in supplying class A drugs into Northern Ireland are arrested and held to account."

The arrest was the second in the case, with another man, also in his 30s, being convicted of drug offences in 2011.

Last year former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan McQuillan warned Northern Ireland was a "soft touch" for smugglers as the National Crime Agency didn't have powers here, a situation that has since been remedied.

His comments came after one of the largest cocaine seizures ever here - 50kgs - in Ballygawley, Co Tyrone.

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