Irish authorities have seized $165 millionfrom a cargo vessel off the southeast coast of the island in what is being called the largest drug raid in the history of the country.
In a dramatic raid on Tuesday, an elite Irish army force seized a cargo ship off the coast of county Cork – taking nearly 5,000 pounds of cocaine from the vessel. The impounded ship, a bulk carrier known as the MV Matthew, had been registered to the country of Panama.
Three men, aged 60, 50 and 31, were arrested as part of the operation. Irish authorities did not rule out making further arrests. The boat in question had been carrying a crew of 25, according to CBS News partners at the BBC.
The fleet commander for the Irish Naval Service said that they fired warning shots during the operation, state broadcaster RTÉ reported, as the ship had refused to comply with instructions from the Irish Navy.
The haul of over 2 tons of cocaine was described as "hugely significant" by Senior Irish Det. John Kelly in a press briefing on Wednesday.
Kelly said the drug shipments had been sent from major drug cartels in South America as well as a number of organized crime groups in Ireland and across Europe.
"There's no large shipment like this coming into our ports or transiting our country without an Irish criminal group involved," Kelly said, according to RTÉ.
Kelly said that police authorities sought to send a message to underworld international drug gangs "that Ireland isn't an easy place to import drugs into and that we will be relentless and determined to disrupt and dismantle criminal gangs."
Irish Justice Minister Helen McEntee on Tuesday called the raid "complex" and "intelligence-led."
McEntee praised authorities and said that the operation was a "blow to the organized crime gangs involved in drug distribution internationally," in a statement posted to social media.