Ireland Makes Large Cocaine Bust Aboard Arriving Bulker
A bulker arriving in Ireland from Canada is part of an ongoing operation as the Irish police and revenue service search the vessel for illegal drugs. The first phase of the search turned up at least 300 KG of cocaine in bundles aboard the ship and starting on Wednesday morning the authorities were planning to undertake a more thorough sweep of the vessel.
The Verila, a 32,000 dwt bulker arrived in the Irish port of Foynes on the West Coast near the city of Limerick early on Tuesday. Owned by Bulgaria’s Navigation Maritime Bulgare (Navibulgar), the ship which is registered in Malta is reported to be carrying a load of grain from Canada. She departed Montreal on December 9. Navibulgar lists her grain capacity at 41,000 cbm.
After docking yesterday, December 19, the search of the vessel began using specially trained dogs and turning up large bundles which preliminary estimates set at 300 kg. Each was wrapped with life preservers as flotation devices and a GPS beacon. The police suspect the cocaine was to be tossed overboard at some point to be recovered by a smaller boat coming from shore.
Irish police displayed the flotation bundles and the dog Harley that found the cocaine (Gardai)
The Irish Times is reporting that the drugs still need to be tested for purity. They are quoting sources that said the final amount might be around 500 kg. Also, the newspaper says the drugs are thought likely to be high purity with the smugglers planning to mix them before distributing the cocaine.
The police are estimating the current value of the seizure at least $23 million. The newspaper is saying that it could rise to as much as $38 million when the final amount is determined.
The crew of the vessel is currently being held for questioning. Navibulgar confirmed to the Bulgarian media that the vessel is currently the subject of an investigation. So far, no arrests have been made.
It is the second major seizure the Irish have made in recent months. In September, another bulker, the Mathew, was found to be smuggling approximately 2,000 kg of cocaine. The vessel was seized and a prosecution is ongoing in that case.