Archive | July, 2007

International Drugs Gangs Will Continue To Use Ireland

31 Jul

International Drug Gangs Will Continue to Use Ireland

Much Greater Costal Security Needed

‘West African Gangs Based in Ireland Are Now ‘Major Players’ in the Commercial Drugs Trade’

By J. P. Anderson

Link: www.garda.ie

Bales of cannabis have been found off the coast of Co Galway.

Fishermen, fishing 50km off the coast, found 11kg of the drug as they hauled in their nets from a depth of 200m.

Gardaí and Customs have been alerted and it is believed the Navy will carry out a search of the area tomorrow.

The School of Medicine and Department of Forensic Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) have presented a study on fatal shootings at their annual research day. Details of gun deaths in Ireland between 2001 and 2005 were collated from pathology reports, garda reports, medical records and books of evidence.
During this time, there were 70 homicides, 23 suicides and 3 gun-related accidents. Information was gathered on shooting location and timing, victim-perpetrator relationship and type of gun used.
Around half gun deaths involved males aged between 21 and 30, with 63% occurring in Dublin. 57% of fatal attacks occurred between 8pm and 8am. One in ten victims was female. The study found that 39% of homicides were drug-related.

It is known as the ‘Irish box’ – 7,500 miles of water and coastline stretching from the republic’s Atlantic seaboard around to Dublin in the east. Vast expanses of these waters are subject to freak and often rapid weather changes that, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, make them ‘nearly impossible to patrol’ and an ideal launch pad for drug smugglers to penetrate the lucrative UK market.

West African gangs based in Ireland are now ‘‘major players’’ in the commercial drugs trade, according to the state’s top customs drug officer. Michael Colgan, head of the customs drug unit, described the African organised crime gangs based here as ‘‘highly sophisticated, clever and adaptable’’.

There is a “growing threat” of maritime drug smuggling along the Irish coastline.
Michael Colgan said the EU police agency Europol described the Irish and British coastline as “vulnerable” to drug trafficking. “Europol highlighted it as a specific threat and it is a constant issue for us. It is a growing threat,” said the director of Customs Drug Law Enforcement.

The international criminal gangs behind the alleged smuggling network will continue to use Ireland as a distribution centre for cocaine aimed at the British market, despite the physical risks presented by west Cork’s rugged coastline.

Security sources in Dublin this weekend said they believed the shipment would be only the first in a series of landings off Ireland’s south-west coast during the summer.

More than €17 million worth of drugs and other contraband were seized at Ireland’s airports and ports last year, according to new figures compiled by the Irish Examiner from Revenue data.

The figures reveal a rise in 2006 in the amount of drugs seized at the three major airports at Dublin, Shannon and Cork but a massive drop in seizures at the major ports of Dublin, Rosslare and Cork. The contrasting figures are believed to reflect a growing trend towards the trafficking of drugs — into Ireland.

Heroin and cocaine use now dominates the Irish drugs market, while ecstasy and cannabis availability appears to have dropped significantly, according to new figures. Garda and customs statistics show seizures of heroin have soared in 2006 while continuing high levels of cocaine have been intercepted.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Drug Seizures
29 Sep 2005 84. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he or his European colleagues have considered the degree to which enhanced coastal surveillance can be achieved with a view to combating ongoing serious drug trafficking with particular reference to the coast around Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26118/05]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen): Customs services, both nationally and internationally, are acutely conscious of the importance of coastal surveillance and it is considered regularly at national and international fora.

The customs and excise service of the Revenue Commissioners has primary responsibility for the prevention, detection, interception and seizure of controlled drugs at importation in Ireland and is well aware of the potential for smuggling drugs along our extensive coastline.

The customs service operates a number of maritime units for inshore and coastal surveillance, and is supported nationally by both the Irish Naval Service and the Air Corps.

Over recent years, the customs service has considerable success in seizing large quantities of drugs in maritime traffic.

Many of these operations involved collaboration with the Garda Síochána and other national and international law enforcement agencies. The service also maintains close working relationships with other foreign customs and law enforcement services responsible for maritime and coastal surveillance.
The customs service regularly evaluates its operational response to drug smuggling on the basis of sophisticated risk analysis based on intelligence gathering at all levels of the drugs production and supply chain network, including current national and international drug smuggling routes and the smuggling methodologies used.

The customs service has re-launched its customs drugs watch programme, which seeks to enlist the help of the public in the critical element of reducing the supply of illicit drugs by notifying customs on a confidential basis of suspicious activity at our sea, land, and air boundaries.

Customs has also acquired a new revenue customs cutter, RCC Suirbhéir, which now patrols and monitors our internal waters, territorial seas and adjacent waters.

The customs service has also enhanced a number of its anti-drugs programmes, specifically its canine programme, which now has nine drug detector teams strategically deployed at our main ports and airports. Later this year, customs will take delivery of a state-of-the-art mobile X-ray container examination unit to assist in countering the smuggling of drugs and other illicit products in containerised freight traffic.
At national level, customs engages in regular surveillance exercises and joint operations with its inter-agency drugs joint task force partners, that is, the Garda Síochána, naval service and Air Corps. At EU level, through membership of the customs co-operation working party and engagement with Europol, customs continues to organise and participate in regular bilateral, trilateral and EU-wide intelligence-led joint surveillance exercises and operations, including maritime focused operations, with other customs and law enforcement agencies.

In 2003, the Irish customs service led and co-ordinated an international surveillance operation to tackle the smuggling of drugs into the EU and neighbouring countries by sea.

The customs services of 26 other European countries participated in this very successful operation during which they seized over seven tonnes of cannabis resin and 730 kg of cocaine. Such surveillance operations are a regular feature of the supply reduction work undertaken by customs to detect and to disrupt drug smuggling operations and are wholly in keeping with the responsibilities laid to customs in the national drugs strategy.

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte accused Taoiseach Bertie Ahern of leaving the nation’s coastline to be patrolled by a single customs’ boat despite the UN citing the Republic as being in the grip of a cocaine explosion.
Mr Rabbitte said lax anti-smuggling protection had left it to an “act of God” to expose the drugs haul washed up on the Cork seaboard, currently valued at €105 million.
“Given the UN assessment that approximately 10% of the drugs coming through this country are seized, that is an enormous accidental confiscation.
“According to a Customs enforcement officer from the Revenue, drug smugglers regard Ireland as a soft touch,” Mr Rabbitte told the Dáil.
He said drugs had spread rapidly from the inner cities and were now available “in every town and village”, with the UN finding cocaine use growing faster in Ireland than any other First World country.
“The UN stated the number of cocaine-related offences increased fourfold between 2002 and 2005. There is an endemic, serious, widespread phenomenon of drug abuse and misuse in this jurisdiction,” he added.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern admitted the Cork seizure was worth “well in excess” of €100m and only detected due to bad weather, but insisted Irish coasts were being robustly defended by Navy vessels as well as Customs.
Western Europe’s largest drugs haul was put on display, as a massive manhunt for two international drug smugglers intensified. Scotland Yard, Europol and Interpol joined gardaí and Customs officials in what has become a global investigation.
Detective Superintendent Tony Quilter, leading the investigation, said the haul is now close to 1,500 kilogram’s or 1.5 tonnes.

It was plucked from Dunlough Bay, north of Mizen Head, after a dinghy ferrying it ashore capsized in a failed so-called coopering operation, spilling 60 bales of cocaine, currently worth €105m, into the sea.
The huge stack of 60 bales of cocaine, almost four foot high and 14 foot wide, was displayed at Bantry Garda Station to demonstrate the sheer quantity of the record haul.
Another bale of cocaine worth €1.8 million was recovered from the base of steep cliffs near Goleen.
We estimate that for every shipment that gets caught or is compromised through bad weather, another nine will get through.’

The British gangs are following the route used by the Irish-born drug trafficker Brian ‘the Milkman’ Wright, thus known because he always delivered. During a lifetime of crime, Wright never paid tax, never had a bank account or credit card, and had no national insurance number. Despite being almost illiterate, his drug-dealing empire brought him a box at Royal Ascot, a private jet, racehorses and a host of celebrity friends.

Although he is now behind bars after being sentenced to 30 years in a London court earlier this year, associates of Wright’s gang based in England and in Spain’s Costa del Sol are thought to have been behind the recent seizure.

It was Wright who pioneered the landing of huge cocaine shipments off the south-west of Ireland in the early 1990s, leading to him becoming one of Europe’s top drug smugglers. The ‘Milkman’s’ route was first used in 1996, when the Sea Mist, a chartered yacht carrying 599kgs of cocaine, was seized in Cork harbour. Like the aborted plot last week, the Sea Mist docked to seek shelter after running into severe storms. That time Wright escaped conviction even though the crew were subsequently all jailed.

Wright’s luck, however, finally ran out last year when the British authorities followed up an investigation into the seizure of five tons of cocaine, worth an estimated €400m, from a ship off the Canary Islands in June 2005. Twelve people were arrested and are now serving lengthy prison sentences. ‘The Milkman’ fled to Cyprus but then went back to Spain where he was arrested and finally extradited to the UK.

According to garda sources, Ireland has become the favoured route of the cocaine smuggling network opened up by Wright. The gang responsible would know that Irish customs have only one ‘cutter’ vessel – a craft suitable for inshore work but not the high seas – to patrol 7,500 miles of the ‘Irish box’.

The vulnerability of Ireland’s coastline was first highlighted seven years ago by the US Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA found that stretches of coast are ‘nearly impossible to patrol’. It concluded: ‘Ireland’s isolated coasts are ideal for shielding offload operations. The country’s internal role as a transit point will accelerate as drug trafficking organisations continue to favour using the island for continental and British-bound cocaine and hashish shipments.’

The situation around Ireland contrasts with other drug smuggling routes. Since February 1996, the Royal Navy and UK customs officers have seized 18.36 tonnes of cocaine with a street value of £1.5bn on other sea routes.

The UK’s largest warship, HMS Ocean, seized cocaine with a street value of £29m from a vessel in the Caribbean. Fifteen bales of the drug were hauled up from the sea by helicopter after smugglers threw them into the water. Speaking from the ship’s control deck off the Caribbean coast, captain Russ Harding told The Observer his crew had been kept busy patrolling the ‘air corridor’ favoured by cocaine traffickers between South America and the Caribbean. He said their task was to monitor light aircraft carrying the drug to either makeshift runways or towards ‘drop points’ in the Atlantic where they would jettison their illicit cargo to be picked up by ships bound for Europe.

While the Irish Naval Service has been strengthened in terms of craft and sailor numbers in recent years, it remains stretched because it also protects Ireland’s dwindling fishing stocks. Irish opposition leader Enda Kenny has dubbed the Irish Navy the ‘Cinderella service’ of the country’s defence forces, saying that at any one time there are only two ships patrolling the seas around the Republic.

Lieutenant Commander Bill Lauste of the Royal Navy said that the British gangs behind the new routes are well connected and ruthless.

‘It can be dangerous, but if they see a helicopter with a large gun they tend to come quietly. But the really dangerous people are often those behind the scene. Obviously these operations are making a few people pretty angry and we are constantly reviewing our security.’

Much of the intelligence on the cocaine smuggling networks is orchestrated by a new, highly secretive pan-European Maritime Analysis Operations Centre (MAOC) in Portugal. British intelligence officers with experts from Portugal, Spain, Ireland, France and the Netherlands monitor vessel movements from the coca plantations of South America to the Caribbean via the ‘Irish box’. The challenge to the MAOC team is daunting. More than 220m sea containers are transported across the oceans and seas each year, with 90 per cent of cargos escaping inspection.

The MAOC centre, which will open later this year, is aimed at protecting the EU’s Atlantic borderline from cocaine traffickers. A source inside Soca, the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency, said: ‘Actionable intelligence is matched to maritime assets to counter the threat in the most effective way possible. This will increase the operational capability of the participating countries to stem the flow of cocaine and improve our common knowledge of the gangs involved.’

The problem for MAOC and other agencies involved in halting the cocaine tide is the dearth of co-operation between services like the Royal Navy and its smaller Irish equivalent. Last year the then Conservative shadow Northern Ireland Secretary David Lidington called for a new Anglo-Irish naval agreement allowing the two services to work together on joint patrols and to share intelligence aimed at shutting down the sea bound cocaine smuggling networks. Last year the Irish Defence Forces confirmed that there was no formal arrangement between the two navies. Since then there has been no progress.

For the traffickers the risks of using the ‘back door’ into Europe and the UK – the often-treacherous waters – are outweighed by the rewards. According to the latest United Nations annual global drugs report, around 2.4 per cent of the UK population admit they have tried cocaine – four times as many as a decade ago. Cocaine abuse, the report found, is high among ‘educated professionals’ in the UK, Italy and Spain. The well-off, it seems, are the market that Wright’s successors are out to exploit.

Drug smugglers have been using the Irish coastline for nearly 40 years. It was first established by the British marijuana smuggler turned writer Howard Marks and his Belfast-born sidekick Jim ‘the Fox’ McCann. But in terms of ruthlessness and organisation today’s gangs are in a league of their own. A number of the gangsters involved are believed to be among the UK’s 1,600 ‘most harmful criminals’, according to Soca, Britain’s version of the FBI. Such individuals, many now fantastically wealthy through crime, are unlikely to give up their empire or shut down the Irish route without putting up a fight.  

Cocaine Manufacturer Gets 12 Years

31 Jul

Cocaine Manufacturer Gets 12 Years

By J. P. Anderson

A 39-year-old man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for mixing cocaine at his home in Blanchardstown in west Dublin.

Rory Lyons was mixing cocaine for a drugs gang run by the Glennon brothers who were both shot dead in gang-related killings in 2005.

Lyons was caught with almost €500,000 worth of cocaine along with a mixing agent, industrial compressor and other drug paraphernelia.

The father of five had no previous convictions.

Andrew and Mark Glennon’s gang took over from the so-called Westies gang in the greater Blanchardstown area and trafficked huge quantities of drugs until both men were murdered in 2005.

Lyons diluting huge quantities of cocaine with the mixing agent manitol for the gang at his home in Fortlawn Park in Blanchardstown.

When gardaí from the Blanchardstown Drugs Unit raided his house on 21 September 2004, Lyons was found wearing Latex gloves surrounded by buckets of manitol.

He claimed in court that he was an alcoholic and cocaine addict but Judge Katherine Delahunt rejected that defence.

She said the evidence was that he was a recreational drug user and that his crime was more serious due to the fact that he was involved in manufacturing the drug.

After sentencing him to 12 years in prison, she suspended the last four because of his family circumstances. 

Breaking News: Cannabis Bales Discovered Off Galway Coast

31 Jul

Breaking News:Bales of cannabis found off Galway coast

Eleven bales of cannabis have been found off the coast of Co Galway.

Fishermen, fishing 50km off the coast, found the drugs as they hauled in their nets from a depth of 200m.

Gardaí and Customs have been alerted and it is believed the Navy will carry out a search of the area tomorrow. 

Child Protection Law Should Facilitate Children

31 Jul

Child Protection Law Should Facilitate Children

By J. P. Anderson

The Children at Risk in Ireland organisation has called on the Government to implement all of the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Child Protection.

In its annual report, CARI highlights child abuse statistics in Ireland and the small percentage of child abuse cases which actually proceed to court or a conviction.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland, CARI’s clinical director Majella Ryan said the legal system needs to facilitate children.

Ireland is being used as a gateway to smuggle children from Bulgaria to Britain, according to claims made recently in an expose on child trafficking.

A member of an organised criminal gang in Bulgaria told BBC News that their preferred route to smuggle children was across land through France and Ireland.

The Irish Refugee Council has said it is not surprised at the news that Ireland is being used as a gateway for such activity.

The Council’s Separated Children’s Officer, Jyothi Kanics, said there had been some indications of Ireland being used as a country of transit and destination for the trafficking of persons, but she said what is alarming is that this is affecting young children.

She also said that there is not enough evidence of how human trafficking is working, but that there is some ongoing research into the issue by different agencies looking at the issue.

In a statement this evening in response to the BBC investigation, a spokesperson for the Minister for Justice, Brian Lenihan, said there was no evidence to suggest that Ireland has a substantial human trafficking problem.

However, the spokesperson said they were putting in place robust measures to ensure Ireland can comprehensively deal with it.

He said the gardaí were working very closely with their counterparts in other EU states and it is planned that new legislation will be in place before the end of the year. 

Boys want More Male Teachers

31 Jul

Boys Want More Male Teachers

By J. P. Anderson

Young boys want more men to teach them as research showed four out of 10 have no male teachers at all.

One boy in 12 has never been taught by a man, according to the poll for the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA).

Many boys admitted they behaved better and worked harder when taught by men, even though the vast majority of primary teachers are women. The TDA said an average primary school has just three male teachers and one in 10 has none at all.

Graham Holley, TDA chief executive, called on more men to consider careers in the classroom. "The number of men applying for primary school training courses is increasing but not quickly enough," he said.

"Both male and female authority figures play an important role in the development of young people. We want the teaching workforce to reflect the strengths of our diverse society."

The survey of 600 eight to 11-year-olds by YouGov suggested that many boys would welcome more men in schools. The survey found that 39% of boys have no men teaching them and one in 12 has never been taught by a man, 48% of boys believe male teachers set good examples for them and 28% said men understood them better.

More than half (51%) of boys said the presence of a male teacher made them behave better, and many boys said men help them enjoy school more (44%) and feel more confident about themselves (37%).

The poll found a quarter of boys claimed their favourite teacher was a man and nearly one in three would like their own father to become a teacher.

Mr Holley said any men considering a move into teaching should "make the strongest application possible".

"This will often mean getting work experience in schools or working with young people," he said. 

Scientists Engineer Crazy Mice

31 Jul

Scientists Engineer Crazy Mice

By J. P. Anderson

Scientists have genetically engineered mice that develop the physical and psychological characteristics of schizophrenia, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

They said the finding will help improve understanding of the disease and help develop drugs to treat it.

"Our goal is trying to identify a strategy that may cure the pathophysiology of schizophrenia," said Dr. Akira Sawa of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, whose work appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Current animal research on schizophrenia has relied on drugs to create the delusions, mood changes and paranoia that characterize this brain disorder.

Engineering animals to develop schizophrenia will help researchers better understand the disease, which affects about 1 percent of the world’s population.

Sawa said the animals can be used to explore how external factors like stress or viruses may aggravate symptoms.

But animal rights groups said such experiments are cruel and unlikely to yield results.

"Of all the experiments on animals, the least justifiable are the psychological experiments because human mental disease is such a uniquely human feature," said Jessica Sandler of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

"When we have the power of gene sequencing … and functional MRIs that show the firing patterns of individual neurons in the brain, there is absolutely no need for this kind of cruelty to animals," she said in a telephone interview.

Sawa said although the approach is new to schizophrenia, it is not new to mental diseases.

"It is actually the same approach that people have done to try to cure Alzheimer’s disease," he said in a telephone interview.

The research builds on the discovery in recent years of the DISC1 gene, which sharply increases the risk of schizophrenia.

When these genetically altered mice matured, they showed increased agitation in open spaces and had more trouble finding hidden food than healthy mice and less interest in swimming.

The researchers believe these symptoms parallel the hyperactivity, impaired sense of smell and apathy found in humans with schizophrenia.

Scans of their brains also revealed changes in structure that resemble those in humans with the disease.

The schizophrenic mice had milder cases than humans. Sawa and colleagues think that may be because more than one gene is needed to trigger the disease.

But he said this mouse model will help fill many gaps in schizophrenia research. 

Cannabis Danger to Respiratory Health Overlooked: Report

31 Jul

Cannabis Danger to Respiratory Health Overlooked

‘One cannabis joint as bad as five cigarettes in succession’

By J. P. Anderson

Smoking a single cannabis joint is as harmful to lungs as having up to five cigarettes in succession, according to research published on Tuesday.

Researchers found that those who smoking cannabis damaged both the lungs’ small fine airways, used for transporting oxygen, and the large airways, which blocked the airflow.

It meant that cannabis smokers complained of wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness, the study by experts at the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand found.

The researchers tested 339 people — those who only smoked cannabis, those who smoked tobacco, those who smoked both and non-smokers.

While the study found that only those who smoked tobacco suffered from the crippling lung disease emphysema, cannabis use still stopped the lungs working properly.

"The extent of this damage was directly related to the number of joints smoked, with higher consumption linked to greater incapacity," said the authors of the report published in the medical journal Thorax.

"The effect on the lungs of each joint was equivalent to smoking between 2.5 and five cigarettes in one go."

The findings come less than a week after researchers said using marijuana increased the risk of developing a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia.

The government is currently considering whether cannabis should be reclassified as a more serious drug because of the dangers associated with stronger strains.

"The danger cannabis poses to respiratory health is consistently being overlooked," said Helena Shovelton, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation.

"Smoking a joint is more harmful to the lungs than smoking a cigarette and we have just banned people from doing that in public places because of the health risks."