€6.5m worth of misery
Stacking up the haul . . . some of the 32 kilos of heroin with an estimated street value of €6.5m seized by gardai
By TOM BRADY
Thursday January 17 2008
A major heroin seizure in west Dublin has confirmed garda fears of a worrying increase in the supply of the killer drug across Europe this year.
Detectives seized 32 kilos of heroin, worth €6.5m on the streets, after a lengthy surveillance operation involving several garda units.
Last night a 35-year-old man, suspected by gardai of being a major drugs trafficker on the south and west side of the city, was in custody at Clondalkin garda station.
A female associate of the prime suspect, also aged 35, was being questioned by gardai about the haul.
Follow-up searches resulted in the freezing of over €60,000, which had been lodged in bank accounts by the suspect, and the seizure of three vehicles.
The heroin find is one of the biggest in the last couple of years.
The amount of heroin smuggled into the country in the past three years has increased almost fivefold from 26 kilos to 125.
Drug experts are bracing themselves for a big increase in heroin on the streets in 2008 and a rise in purity levels. Agencies are also concerned at the intelligence patterns showing that heroin is now available across the country and has spread into all social categories.
Control of the heroin trade is largely in the hands of crime gangs based in west and south Dublin where traditionally there has been a large number of addicts in suburbs ranging from Tallaght across to Clondalkin, Ronanstown, Ballyfermot, Blanchardstown and Finglas.
The latest seizure is believed by senior officers to have been destined for Tallaght, Clondalkin, Ronanstown and Ballyfermot.
It was recovered after detectives stopped a van at Coolmore Park in Palmerstown around teatime on Tuesday following what was described as a targeted intelligence-led operation.
The lengthy investigation was spearheaded by the Garda national drugs unit and local units from Ballyfermot and Clondalkin and also involved the Garda air support unit, dog unit, Criminal Assets Bureau and technical bureau.
Some of the heroin was found inside the van and gardai chased to the driver who fled the scene into a nearby park.
He was spotted dropping two bags of heroin, which were recovered, as other garda units joined the search.
Gardai said later they had recovered all of the heroin, a total of 32 one-kilo slabs. Also seized were the van, a BMW X5 four by four, owned by the male suspect, and a car.
Detectives found documentation relating to the bank accounts during a search of a house in Clondalkin and, with the assistance of the Criminal Assets Bureau, the money was frozen yesterday.
One of the officers heading the investigation, Det Supt Paddy Byrne said: "This is a very significant seizure. We see it not only as a victory for the gardai, but also for the community, as it removes a lot of heroin from the streets."
The male suspect had been under investigation by gardai in the past in connection with a number of major drug seizures and was regarded as a key player in the trafficking scene.
He was suspected to have been linked to British drug smuggling gangs and to have also been associated in the past with the gang led by jailed gangland boss John Gilligan.
- TOM BRADY