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A stock image of a Naval Service diver. Irish Defence Forces
West Cork

No drugs found as naval divers complete search of bay at centre of cocaine smuggling probe

Ten men – understood to be Irish, Serbian, Spanish and Dutch – were arrested by specialist gardaí near Skibbereen last Thursday.

A NAVAL DIVE team has completed its detailed search of the sea bed off a beach in West Cork where a suspected drug gang were arrested – no drugs have been found. 

Ten men – understood to be Irish, Serbian, Spanish and Dutch – were arrested by specialist gardaí near Skibbereen in West Cork last Thursday. 

Gardaí also seized an SUV, camper van, articulated truck and a 40 foot, modified high speed rigid hulled inflatable boat capable of high speeds over long distances. 

Officers are continuing to question the men but are also examining phones, laptops and other devices. Detectives believe these devices could be a treasure trove of intelligence. 

Investigators believe the men were involved in a transfer of drugs from a mother ship – this process is known as ‘coopering’.  

One theory being explored by gardaí is that the transfer of the drugs had happened off the English coast. It is believed they based themselves on the Cork coast in a bid to avoid detection by authorities. 

The naval divers were called in from their base in Naval Headquarters on Haulbowline Island in Cork Harbour. 

The dive team worked over the weekend in difficult conditions. They used advanced sidescan sonar to identify targets for divers to inspect. They also used a specialist transponder detection equipment to locate beacons that may be attached to submerged drug bundles. 

Sources have said that the divers scanned a huge area around Tragumna Beach and bay and have conclusively ruled out that the drugs were dumped in the area. 

A naval service ship was not deployed to the area as it was in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin for the St Patrick’s Day festivities. Ireland has just one Irish Naval ship available to go to sea.

A source said that the ship was not needed as it does not possess sonar or other sensors to do the job of the more mobile dive team.

Gardaí now believe that the gang may have been using the Irish coast as a base to rendezvous with the drug shipment.  

It is also understood that the intelligence gardaí were in possession of may have been gathered from a member of the public who observed suspicious activity. 

International enquiries with intelligence agencies across Europe and in the US have led investigators to believe that they are dealing with an international cartel with connections to organised drug smugglers in Iran.

It is not the first time gardaí have come across Iranian nationals involved in drug shipments entering Ireland. 

They are liaising with law enforcement agencies in Dubai, Spain and the Netherlands as well as other jurisdictions via Europol and Interpol. 

The men were detained under specialist anti-gangland legislation in which they can be questioned for a maximum of a week.

The suspects will have been held for seven days by tomorrow. They will have to be charged or released. 

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