One of eight men arrested in major drugs haul probe released without charge

One of eight men arrested by Irish police following the seizure of almost 160 million euro (£139 million) of cocaine on a bulk cargo ship off the coast of Ireland has been released without charge.

A total of 2,253kg of cocaine was found on the MV Matthew after members of the Irish Army Ranger Wing captured the vessel off the Co Cork coast by abseiling from a helicopter earlier this week.

The ship had been under surveillance since Friday when a multi-agency operation responded to intelligence of a major international drug smuggling bid.

Irish police have said the seizure was the largest in the history of the state.

Police believe the cocaine, captured onboard the cargo ship after the dramatic military operation at sea, was destined for distribution beyond Ireland, potentially into the UK and continental Europe.

A fishing trawler that grounded off the coast of Co Wexford late on Sunday was also being monitored as part of the operation, amid suspicions it was en route to rendezvous with the cargo ship.

The vessel remains stuck on a sandbank out at sea, with poor conditions preventing the authorities from boarding and searching it.

Two men who had been winched from that vessel were among those arrested and appeared before Waterford District Court on Friday.

Jamie Harbron, 31, of South Avenue, Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees, UK, and 60-year-old Ukrainian national Vitaliy Lapa, of no fixed abode, were charged with conspiracy to import drugs.

They were remanded in custody to appear at Wexford District Court via videolink on Monday.

On Saturday, police announced they had arrested an eighth man as part of the investigation into the cocaine seizure and associated events.

He was arrested for alleged organised crime offences contrary to the Criminal Justice Act, 2006.

They later announced that one person had been released without charge but said they would not confirm which man it was for operational reasons.

Five other men are still detained by investigating gardai under section 50 Criminal Justice Act 2007, at garda stations in the south of the country.

The Irish police service, An Garda Siochana, said investigations are ongoing.