Secret call to jail led to record ‘click and collect’ drugs and phones haul
A secret phone call to jail authorities led to the biggest ever seizure of illegal drugs, mobile phones and alcohol in the history of the Irish prison service.
Jail insiders said tensions were “extremely high” in Mountjoy Prison last night with rumours that another inmate gave crucial information that led to the seizure of the goods valued at more than €170,000.
It is understood the contraband was sprinkled with coffee in an attempt to prevent jail sniffer dogs from detecting it.
“What you have to remember here is that the items may be worth €170,000 on the outside but the value of illegal drugs, mobile phones and alcohol is worth far more in the prison system,” a source said.
“A phone call was made from the outside which alerted jail authorities to what was due to end up in the kitchens of Mountjoy Prison. From the kitchens, the contraband was due to be distributed throughout the prison system.
“Early indications are that a blame game is taking place over who is responsible and this is a very serious situation when it is jailed members of the Kinahan cartel who are suspected of organising this.
“Someone could easily get sliced up or badly assaulted or worse over this,” the source added.
The driver of a van in which the contraband was discovered in two boxes, which were meant to contain sugar and were hidden in a pallet, was arrested at the scene by gardaí from Mountjoy station.
He is a Romanian national, aged in his 40s, who was not previously known to gardaí. Senior sources said last night that “all the indications were that he knew nothing about the contraband” but he was still being questioned last night.
Instead it is understood that the massive haul was placed in the van without his knowledge. The van contained five pallets.
“Gardaí assisted the Irish Prison Service upon the discovery of cocaine with an estimated value of €140,000, tablets believed to be worth up to €20,000 and €5,000 in suspected cannabis herb (all pending analysis),” a garda spokesman said.
“A small quantity of steroids and alcohol along with 30 mobile phones and accompanying SIM cards were also seized.
“Gardaí are continuing to liaise with the Irish Prison Service and further analysis of the items seized will be carried out,” he added.
The consignment of up to 10,000 tablets, 30 mobile phones, SIM cards, cocaine, steroids, and whiskey and even Fitbits were found yesterday morning in an intelligence-led operation.
Some of the packages even had the initials and nicknames of inmates on them.
“It was like some sort of click and collect service that was going on,” said one prison source.
“There was even an exercise band hidden among the drugs and phones, that shows how personalised this delivery was,” he said.
The van was making a regular delivery to the Dublin jail yesterday morning when it was searched by Operational Support Group staff.
Gardaí and prison management will also be investigating if other consignments of contraband could have been smuggled into the prison in a similar way, or if desperate criminals had decided that ‘going big’ was worth the risk.
The Irish Prison Service has had large scale success in thwarting the efforts of inmates’ associates in getting drugs into jails in the past.
“The Irish Prison Service can confirm that a substantial seizure of contraband has been seized in Mountjoy Prison by the Operational Support Group (OSG) based at Mountjoy Prison,” a prison service spokesman said .
“The contraband was seized following an intelligence led security operation by Mountjoy Prison staff supported by the Operational Support Group.
“The contraband, which included a substantial amount of drugs, including a large quantity of tablets, alcohol and mobile phones, has been provided to An Garda Síochána for analysis and is the largest single seizure of contraband into an Irish prison,” he added.
“The Irish Prison Service has commenced an investigation into the seizure and is working with An Garda Síochána in this regard.”
The director general of the Irish Prison Service, Caron McCaffrey, said the operation was “a very significant result for Mountjoy Prison and our Operational Support Group in their efforts to prevent dangerous contraband from entering the prison.
“Given the scale of the contraband seized it is highly possible that these drugs, if they had made their way into the prison population, could have had a devastating impact on the prison population including the potential for the loss of life by overdose.”
Jim Mitchell, deputy general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, said: “This seizure represents a significant drugs find and highlights the outstanding work that our members are carrying out on a daily basis while also striving to keep Covid from entering our jails.
“Our members are often the unseen and forgotten of our frontline services but work of this magnitude on the coalface of our prisons reiterates the ongoing challenge for them on all our behalf.”