24/11/2011

Drugs Haul Boosts Border Crime Focus

Drugs have been recovered in an international cross-border operation that highlighted the fight against organised crime across Ireland, North and South.

It has been revealed that a joint police operation thwarted an attempt to smuggle a £2m (€2.3m) haul of cannabis into Ireland.

Four arrests were made as part of the operation, including one in Northern Ireland, while a lorry driver from NI was arrested in Greece where the 200kg of the drug was seized.

The successful operation was welcomed by both the Dáil Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter and the Stormont Minister of Justice, David Ford while they were attending the ninth Annual Cross Border Organised Crime Seminar in Gormanston, Co. Meath.

They praised the combined police operation alongside An Garda Síochána Commissioner Martin Callinan and PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott, (pictured) who were also present for the launch of the seminar.

The driver of the lorry, a 36-year-old man from Northern Ireland, has been arrested. Two other men, both Greek nationals, were detained in Greece. A fourth man, aged 34, has been arrested in Northern Ireland.

A number of searches have also been conducted in Northern Ireland and the Republic and a number of items have been removed for examination.

PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott said: "The timing of these seizures and arrests is purely coincidental with [the] conference but none the less welcome.

"They are the result of much hard work by colleagues in a range of partner agencies and provide tangible demonstration of how partnership delivers results, making communities safer and creating a hostile environment for organised criminals, whatever the jurisdiction."

The Sinn Fein MLA and NI Policing Board member Gerry Kelly has also congratulated those involved: "Everybody should be delighted that this operation has seen £2m worth of drugs destined for Ireland seized in Greece.

"It is clear that this seizure has come about as a result of good police work and good co-operation between various agencies but in particular between the PSNI and the Gardai. I congratulate those involved for preventing these drugs getting onto our streets."

Robust Network

Justice Minister and Alliance party Leader, David Ford said: "This conference is an example of the level of trust and cooperation that exists between our respective Departments and agencies to tackle the organised criminals who exploit the border.
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"Whether the commodity is drugs, laundered fuel, fake goods or, perhaps worst of all, human beings, we have a robust network of cross-border partnerships that are facing the challenge."

He said: "Recent multi-agency successes against cross-border organised crime have been made possible by the combined efforts, on both sides of the border, to share information, align strategies and co-ordinate operations.

"Working in partnership at an operational level has delivered results on the ground.

"I congratulate all those involved in tackling organised crime across the border and I will continue to work with the Irish Government to make sure that organised crime gangs are disrupted, dismantled and brought to justice."

Also speaking at the conference Minister Shatter said: "This joint initiative ensures that cross border cooperation and partnership continues to be central to the law enforcement response to organised criminality across the border.

"The law enforcement agencies represented at the Seminar all face a common challenge in tackling criminal gangs. In building strategic partnerships to target cross border organised criminality we are strengthening our responses and working better to keep our communities safe from harm."

On crime gangs, Minister Shatter added: "Organised crime gangs continue to exploit borders for criminal gain.

"The strong cooperation that exists between our law enforcement agencies ensures that we tackle these gangs through a coordinated and effective response - disrupting their criminal activities, targeting those involved and seizing property. Tackling cross border criminality sends a clear message to criminals that they will find no safe haven on either side of the border."

He also referred to the work being carried out through cross border cooperation initiatives such as the Cross Border Fuel Fraud Group. "The work of this Group has resulted in a number of groups, involved in the laundering and distribution of illegal fuels, and who operate in both jurisdictions, being identified. These groups are now being specifically targeted for investigation by all the law enforcement agencies concerned.

"In addition, current operations including 'Operation Jutty' and 'Operation Crypt II' have given rise to a number of search operations being conducted simultaneously by law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border."

As well as the politicians and the police, the Irish Republic's Revenue Commissioners, Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and other departments from both jurisdictions took part.

Presentations/workshops concerned a range of issues including drugs, cross border fraud, firearms and crime trends.

(BMcC/GK)

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