Gardaí and Customs and Excise officials yesterday began the painstaking dismantling of an ocean-going yacht as part of a major drugs investigation.
The vessel, a 14-metre Jeanneau-built Sun Magic class sloop, was moved to a specialist yard in Kinsale, Co Cork, yesterday where marine engineers, assisted by divers, began an exhaustive examination of the hull interior.
That followed two days of specialist searches of the sloop’s cabins and bilges by Garda and Navy teams.
No drugs have been found so far.
Gardaí are continuing to question three men after they were arrested when the vessel was boarded last Tuesday off Ireland’s south-west coast.
The boat was boarded by gardaí with the assistance of Naval Service and Customs and Excise personnel as part of a planned operation.
An armed boarding party from the LÉ Eithne intercepted the vessel off the Co Kerry coast and the operation later concluded just off the Co Cork coast near Kinsale.
It followed an intelligence-led operation with the yacht having been under surveillance for some time by Naval Service units, including both patrols ships and a maritime reconnaissance plane.
The vessel entered Irish waters from the Azores but is understood to have started its journey from just off Central America.
Three men found on board the vessel were arrested and brought to Bandon Garda Station for questioning. They were later released without charge and a file is being prepared for the DPP.
Two are Irish and believed to be from the Co Louth area. A third is understood to be an eastern European national.
All are understood to be in their late 20s or mid-30s.
The boat, which remains under armed guard, is now undergoing a specialist forensic search operation, which will take several days to complete. Specially trained drugs sniffer dogs will also be used.