Written Answers. - Illegal Drug Trafficking.

John O'Donoghue

Question:

21 Mr. O'Donoghue asked the Minister for Finance the plans, if any, he has to improve measures currently in place to prevent illegal drug trafficking at Irish air and sea ports. [7046/96]

The Customs Service has primary responsibility for preventing the illegal importation of controlled drugs at air and sea ports and other entry points to the State. In the Single Market era, the Customs Service is required to play an increased role in protecting not only our own frontier, but also the Irish section of the external EU frontier against the illegal importation of drugs.

As I informed the House on a number of occasions, the Revenue Commissioners responded to that situation by allocating substantial resources to this area, in particular by setting up the Customs National Drugs Team (the CNDT), comprising over 70 staff, with specific responsibility for detecting and preventing drug smuggling. This specialist team operates on a countrywide basis, including at air and sea ports, and it also supplements the general cadre of Customs and Excise staff who are also responsible for combating drug smuggling as part of their normal duties.

The Customs Service has succeeded in making many substantial seizures of illegal drugs over the past number of years. The street value of seizures made since 1993 comes to some £60 million. The majority of these seizures involved cannabis resin, but quantities of other illegal drugs, including cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, etc. have also been seized.

Drug smugglers detained by Customs are turned over by them to the Garda. Since 1993, a total of 22 persons detained by Customs and transferred to Garda custody have been successfully prosecuted and sentenced to jail terms ranging from two to ten years.