Busted: Irish use mobile x-ray to expose crimes of drug smugglers

Customs and excise officials in Ireland have used a mobile container scanner to seize around 5.5 kg of cocaine with an estimated street value of 385,000 euros at Rosslare Europort. A man in his 30s was arrested by police on 27 October and taken to a Garda Station in County Wexford.

The illicit drugs were discovered when a Polish-registered freight unit was stopped and searched, having arrived on a ferry from Dunkirk, France, according to a press release issued on 28 October by Revenue, Irish Tax and Customs.

This follows the seizure on 25 October of nearly 4,000 euros in cash and a small amount of foreign currency at Rosslare Europort. The discovery was made when Revenue officers stopped and searched a Bulgarian-registered cab in which 13 kg of cocaine worth nearly 920,000 euros was also found. Mobile x-ray also played a role in this operation, noted a Revenue press release.

In another significant recent raid, Irish officials recovered 2,253 kg of cocaine after a Panamanian-registered ship, MV Matthew, was stormed by armed forces and impounded, BBC News reported on 27 September. Authorities said the cocaine had a conservative estimated street value of 157 million euros. The drug was supplied by a "murderous" South American cartel group, Garda Assistant Commissioner Justin Kelly said.

Scanner details

The Nuctech MT1213DE scanner, which was first deployed at Rosslare Europort in early 2021, is a vital resource in the Revenue's strategy to target fiscal fraud, fuel fraud, and the supply of illicit drugs and tobacco products, according to a press release issued on 22 June 2021. The aim is to disrupt the supply chain, seize the illicit products, and prosecute those responsible.

The container scanner was selected following a competitive tendering process and is expected to operate until at least 2030.

"Revenue's strategy is underpinned by a robust foundation of data analytics, intelligence, and risk profiling. Our resulting actions, including the deployment of modern scanning technology, contribute to tackling organised criminal activity," said Revenue Commissioner and Director General of Customs Gerry Harrahill.

"This new high energy mobile x-ray container scanner is an important component of our resources and in our continued determination to target all forms of shadow economy and illegal activity," he continued.

The scanner cost 2.16 million euros, but it was largely funded by a 1.73-million-euro grant from the European Anti-Fraud Agency (OLAF), the Irish Examiner reported.

Revenue's three x-ray scanners have been involved in some of Ireland's largest contraband and drugs seizures, including a 500 kg cocaine seizure in Dublin Port and a 172 kg haul of cocaine at Ringaskiddy Port, Cork (both in 2021), the newspaper article added.

The machine can be driven independently during site transfer transportation and be deployed for use within 15 minutes, it noted.

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