Customs officers in the Republic of Ireland have found a “torpedo” containing cocaine worth an estimated €5 million on a popular tourist beach.
A member of the public alerted authorities to the suspicious device, which was found at the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, close to beaches popular with surfers.
The metal tube-like container held 75kg of the drug, spilt into 1kg packages, some of which were adorned with the Playboy bunny logo.
Investigators believe the “torpedo-type device” was likely attached to a cargo ship or another type of ocean-going vessel, but confessed they have no idea where the shipment came from, or its intended destination.
Officers suspect that the device may have been washed up as long as five months ago, noting that it had been spotted well above the shore line before the beginning of the summer, and may have been laying where it was found for even longer.
A Customs spokesperson said: “Revenue seized approximately 75kg of cocaine with an estimated street value of over €5 million. The drugs were discovered with assistance from the general public through the ‘Customs Drugs Watch Programme’.
“Acting on a report from a member of the public, Revenue Customs Officers from the South West region discovered a suspicious item on the shore near Liscannor, Co. Clare.”
The Irish Customs Drugs Watch Programme encourages people living in coastal communities, maritime personnel and people living near airfields to report unusual occurrences to customs officials. Customs officers warned members of the public not to put themselves at risk by interfering with similar items.
Investigations into the origin of the haul are continuing, a customs spokeswoman said.
Drug traffickers have used Ireland’s coastline as a gateway to the UK and mainland Europe for decades. The US Drug Enforcement Administration has noted that large swathes the country’s coastline is near-impossible to patrol due to its waters being subject to freak and rapid weather changes, making it ideal for smugglers keen to avoid detection.
Back in 2007, police seized high-purity cocaine worth an estimated €440 million off the coast of west Cork when members of the UK gang attempting to bring it ashore overloaded their boat and accidentally filled the vessel’s tank with diesel fuel instead of petrol.
In September 2015, four members of a West Yorkshire organised crime gang were jailed after customs officials discovered a tonne of cocaine worth as much as €350 million in a yacht off the Irish coast the previous year. The Makayabella was tracked by Irish, UK and Venezuelan authorities as it crossed the Atlantic from the Caribbean – a common starting point for smugglers looking to traffic drugs into the UK and Europe from South America via Ireland.