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Caught: How online dealers are stopped from funneling drugs through our postal system

‘We’ve found it in picture frames, wrapped in clothing. You name it, really.’

A €150,000 cannabis seizure which was detected at Portlaoise mail depot this week.
A €150,000 cannabis seizure which was detected at Portlaoise mail depot this week.
Image: Revenue

DRUG DEALERS ARE using the Irish postal service as a way of bringing their stock into Ireland but Revenue and gardaí are fighting back against the burgeoning trend.

While relatively small amounts of drugs for personal use pass through sorting centres on a weekly basis, larger quantities are starting to be sent across from far-flung places such as Africa and Asia.

In recent days, revenue officers seized €150,000 worth of cannabis which was detected at Portlaoise mail centre. It was to be delivered to an address in the capital.

Following routine profiling, and with the assistance of revenue’s detector dog team, the illegal drugs were found concealed in parcels from Nigeria, addressed to a location in Dublin.

Revenue has anti-smuggling teams at all main ports and airports and at the main postal depots to detect illegal items entering the country. Packages received at postal depots are subject to risk profiling and post-clearance auditing.

Liam Peakin, who is manager in Customs Drugs Law Enforcement in the Revenue Investigations & Prosecutions Division, said the practice is becoming more and more prevalent despite an increase in detections.

Cannabis Portlaoise 2017.02.15 One of the packages of cannabis was seized this week. Source: Revenue

In an interview with TheJournal.ie, Peakin described how revenue officers are responding every day to the more innovative ways smugglers are trying to sneak products into the country.

He said: “Smugglers go to all sorts of extremes to cover their actions. We like to think that, as we find stuff, that that tunes us into trends and then we can respond. For those who try to smuggle cannabis, it can be difficult to conceal because it is so bulky and the smell is very strong. We’ve found it in cans. We’ve found it in picture frames, wrapped in clothing. You name it, really.”

Recent statistics have shown the number of seizures has risen dramatically in recent years.

For example, in 2010, revenue officers seized 6.68 kilos of cannabis with a street value of €71,000. Last year, there were nearly 700 individual seizures resulting in the confiscation of of 92kgs of cannabis worth €1.5 million.

The results are similar for amphetamines, ecstasy and ‘other drugs’. In 2010, there were just five seizures resulting in 310 grams being confiscated. In 2016, there were 166 totalling nearly 40kgs and valued at over €165,000.

Peakin said these statistics can be taken with a pinch of salt and says the increased detection rate is due to an increase in demand for drugs.

The revenue officer said that many people have started ordering their drugs online and getting them delivered to a private address. When drugs are detected, revenue contact gardaí and a controlled delivery is orchestrated between the two agencies. This involves delivering the drugs as though they were not intercepted and questioning the people to whom they were delivered.

“The internet drug market is tough for us,” Peakin adds.

“There has been a huge increase in the number of people who are ordering online. Are we going to beat this? I don’t think so. But we’re stopping it getting to the public which is the main thing. The frightening this is the extent to which people have faith in what they’re ordering.”

“I sense that sometimes people forget that we’re an island. The only way drugs can get here is by plane and by sea. I say more resources should be put at these places and then you’ll have a better detection rate,” he concluded.

Read: Man and woman arrested after drugs and tablets found in car stopped for no tax and insurance>

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