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Irish Authorities Seize $41 Million in Cocaine Disguised as Charcoal

cocaine seized in port of Rotterdam disguised as charcoal
Cocaine disguised as charcoal siezed in Ireland (Gara photo)

Published Jul 23, 2021 4:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

Irish authorities are reporting the seizure of up to half a ton of cocaine with an estimated street value of $41 million in a joint operation with Dutch authorities and the Port of Rotterdam. The cocaine was disguised as charcoal illustrating the sophisticated methods being used by the drug gangs to move the narcotics. It will take the authorities days to reverse the chemical processes to know the full extent of the seizure.

The Irish Garda Siochana through its Garda National Drugs & Organized Crime Bureau said the seizure was part of a larger campaign against the organized drug cartels. They only said that it involved working with multiple authorities without providing details into how they became aware of the shipment.

Two shipping containers traveling from an unnamed South American country were offloaded in the Port of Rotterdam. The Dutch authorities working with the port placed the containers under observation waiting for them to be claimed. It was unclear how they thought they might be moved to Ireland.

Authorities believe the drug smugglers suspected that the containers were under observation as they did not claim them or attempt to transship them to Ireland. It was finally decided that the containers should be handed over to the Irish authorities as they had been leading this investigation.

The two containers were transferred to an Irish vessel and transported to Dublin under armed guard. The vessel was escorted by the Irish navy once it entered local waters. Once on the dock, the Irish authorities used dogs and a mobile x-ray scanner which deterred unspecified anomalies among the declared cargo which was 2,000 bags purported to be charcoal. Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) was brought into examine the charcoal and confirm the anomalies were in fact cocaine disguised as charcoal.

The authorities explained that the drug smugglers are using a complex chemical process. The result is that the cocaine takes on the color and appearance of charcoal and they are successful in eliminating the scent of the cocaine which is normally detected by the dogs. Spain’s national police reported a similar seizure earlier this year.

Garda said that it expects it will take FSI days or perhaps longer to extract the cocaine so that they can determine the full extent of this seizure. The investigation is ongoing but currently no arrests have been reported related to this shipment.