Cocaine worth around €8.4 million which was seized in the Republic of Ireland “could have been destined” for Northern Ireland, according to a senior Garda officer.
The 120-kilo haul was recovered when officers attached to the Garda National Drugs & Organised Crime Bureau, supported by other units, intercepted two vehicles shortly after 6pm on Thursday at two locations in the Lough Owel area of Co. Westmeath.
Along with the significant haul of cocaine, dardai also seized a light aircraft at a commercial airfield in Co. Longford, where it is believed the drugs were flown to.
Two suspects aged 54 and 40 are being questioned at Ashbourne Garda Station following their arrests near Mullingar yesterday evening.
Speaking to BBC NI’s Evening Extra programme, Detective Chief Superintendent Seamus Boland said criminals “recognise no border” on the island.
When asked if some of the drugs would have been sold in the market here, he replied: “Yes I think there is every possibility some of the drugs seized yesterday could have been destined for Northern Ireland.”
“Firstly the seizure itself is quite significant, being 120kg of cocaine with a street value of 8.4 million,” he said.
“While we work very close with our partners in Northern Ireland and the PSNI and the NCA and other law enforcement agencies, we clearly see organised crime recognises no border and operates on an all-Ireland basis.
“It is highly likely that some of the drugs seized yesterday would be destined for the market in Northern Ireland.
"We had a similar incident back in February down in Waterford where a light aircraft was seized in the course of an investigation in collaboration with our UK colleagues, the National Crime Agency," he said.
"That was following a significant seizure of drugs in the UK when the aircraft then flew on and landed here in Ireland.
"It is not new for organised crime - it is something that is experienced across the rest of Europe."
Follow-up searches were conducted at residential premises in Naas, Co Kildare and Waterford City.
Two men were arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking contrary to section 15 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and are currently detained at Ashbourne Garda Station.
Following the operation, Assistant Commissioner Justin Kelly, the Head of Organised and Serious Crime, said: "This operation has prevented a considerable quantity of dangerous drugs from making it onto our streets and causing significant harm to our communities.
"An Garda Siochana is committed, under Operation Tara, to disrupting and dismantling the organised criminal networks who profit from drug trafficking and impact so negatively on our society”.
Investigations are ongoing.