The 37th Annual Drugs Enforcement Conference and the smiling picture of the country's two most senior organised crime investigators, along with their counterpart in the US Drug Enforcement Agency, did not appear this week in any of the coverage of the seizure of the largest consignment of cocaine in the history of the State.

The dramatic and dangerous events on the high seas bear little visual resemblance to the sideline meetings and quiet conversations held in conference rooms and hotels all over the world.

And yet they are intrinsically linked, as is the meeting last week of the Garda’s Assistant Commissioner Justin Kelly with Sjoerd Top, the Executive Director of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (Narcotics) in Lisbon.

MAOC is directly involved in tracking drug cartels’ ships, submarines and other maritime transport across the Atlantic. It provides European law enforcement agencies with information and intelligence on their movements.

Assistant Commissioner Justin Kelly pictured with Anne Milgram of US Drug Enforcement Agency and Detective Chief Superintendent Seamus Boland

The joint task force in Ireland worked closely this week with MAOC(N) in Lisbon, the US Drugs Enforcement Agency, the UK’s National Crime Agency and the French Customs Service DNRED.

This level of support and cooperation does not happen by accident. Gardaí have for some time, been quietly building effective and collaborative relationships with law enforcement all over the world.

The Kinahan gang leadership, Christy senior, Daniel and Christopher junior, could testify to the effectiveness of the cooperation between the Spanish authorities and gardaí.

Soon after the murder of Kinahan gangster David Byrne in the Regency Hotel in 2016, they were forced to flee their luxury homes on the Costa Del Sol for Dubai.

By that time, Spanish police officers had already been in Dublin.

David Byrne’s brother Liam, the leader of the Byrne organised crime group, the Kinahan’s franchise criminal group in Dublin, is currently in prison in Spain pending extradition to the UK.

Liam Byrne is currently in prison in Spain

He is being pursued by the UK’s National Crime Agency, who successfully targeted his brother-in-law Thomas 'Bomber’ Kavanagh, who is currently serving 22 years in prison in England.

The success of An Garda Síochána’s international relationships and with the US in particular is evident in the wanted posters produced for the top seven Kinahan gang members, including Ian Dixon, Bernard Clancy and Sean McGovern, who also live in Dubai.

McGovern is wanted in Ireland to face a charge of murder and an international arrest warrant has been issued.

The US also offered a $5m reward for information leading to the conviction of Christy, Daniel or Christopher junior, while the seventh man, Johnny Morrissey, was arrested in Spain last year.

The US has offered a $5m reward for information leading to the conviction of Christy, Daniel or Christopher junior

The image of the Garda Commissioner meeting the Dubai police commander Lt General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri in the Middle East, and the forthcoming visit of UAE police officers to Dublin will worry the Kinahans.

The sense of immunity that they have felt in the country for the past five years is now under threat.

And while there is no extradition treaty between Ireland and the United Arab Emirates, Dubai has extradited some of those wanted in Europe.

Two of Daniel Kinahan’s friends in organised crime, Raffaele Imperiale and Ridouane Taghi, were arrested in the emirate and flown to Italy and the Netherlands respectively.

Both had attended Kinahan’s wedding at the seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel in 2017.

Commissioner Drew Harris and Lt. General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, Commander in Chief, Dubai Police

The success of the garda's "international police diplomacy" designed to build relationships, was evident in this week’s successful drugs seizure.

Along with a superintendent in Dubai, gardaí also have a liaison officer in Bogota, the capital of Colombia.

Since that senior officer in the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau was appointed, cooperation has been enhanced and information and intelligence are being channelled back to Dublin. Europe is now a bigger market for cocaine than North America.

Gardaí believe the cocaine that comes to these shores originates from the clandestine production factories of the largest criminal organisation in Colombia, the Clan del Golfo.

"The connections between the South and Central American cartels and Irish organised crime groups are, gardaí say, closer than people here might think"

The South American Cartel has connections with Mexican cartels, such as the Sinaloa, and organised crime gangs in Europe, the US and the Middle East.

Its leader Dairo Antonio Usuga was extradited to the US last year and was last month sentenced to 45 years in prison after he admitted running a vast drugs empire that engaged in torture and murder.

The connections between the South and Central American cartels and Irish organised crime groups are, gardaí say, closer than people in Ireland might think.

Known Irish criminals associated with particular gangs here have been tracked travelling to areas previously thought too dangerous for them to be in.

They have been tracked moving between Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico to source cocaine for the Irish and European markets.

Gardaí say they are useful to the cartels. They are part of the shipment line and with the recent take down of the confidential secure phone network for criminals, Encrochat, face-to-face meetings are now the preferred option for doing business.

The biggest drugs haul in the history of the State was seized this week

Irish criminal gangs will pool their resources both among themselves and with UK and European gangs to source and buy huge quantities of cocaine.

The risk is the same whether it is 2kg or two tonnes, but it is cheaper to buy in bulk and the rewards are greater.

It then becomes a major international logistical operation to move the drugs from production to market.

The submarine and ships have to be purchased. The crew has to be recruited and paid. The routes have to be planned. Officials have to be corrupted and paid off.

The cocaine has to be brought ashore to a safe location and apportioned to each criminal gang. The amount invested determines the percentage of the haul received.

Transnational drugs shipments are also wrapped in rubber and covered in black plastic and canvas. This makes them waterproof and buoyant, and they can be thrown overboard from the 'mothership' for collection by the 'daughtership' from the sea.

Some of these drug deliveries this summer, which were missed by the customers, washed up on the coast of Donegal in July.

To avoid this mishap, the cartels also package their drugs into what’s known as "a snake" and attach a GPS transponder.

Gardaí examine a 'drugs package' that washed up on a Donegal beach in July

The snake is a string of cocaine bales connected to one another by a rope. The customer is given the co-ordinates for the GPS to find the drugs in the water and pull all the bales onboard.

The drugs then have to be distributed and diluted. The DEA estimates purity of South American cocaine at between 73% and 83%, which allows it to be cut at least three times, tripling the profits, from wholesale to retail.

An Garda Síochána’s relations with other law enforcement agencies are crucial. Specialists from Interpol are expected to arrive in Ireland in the next few days to help the gardaí identify markings on the cocaine.

This, they hope, will point to its source, as cartels and traffickers put distinctive brands on their products.

"We are getting ready for the inevitable because make no mistake, it's coming here. Fentanyl."

Assistant Commissioner Justin Kelly said there is no major drugs consignment that enters Irish waters without the involvement of an Irish organised crime group.

As gardaí continue to build relationships through visits and meetings with law enforcement agencies all over the world, the influence of senior organised crime group members in the countries where they have sought sanctuary abroad - Spain, the Netherlands, the UK and the United Arab Emirates - continues to wane.

It is now possible for gardaí to pick up the phone and speak to senior colleagues in the DEA and the NCA and get real time information.

These agencies will often respond to garda requests immediately, deploy assets and carry out surveillance on Irish targets on foreign soil and gardaí will reciprocate.

"They want reliable, competent and trustworthy partners they can work with," a senior officer said this week.

"And this week we have displayed those attributes.

"We are working with them. We are getting ready for the inevitable because make no mistake, it’s coming here. Fentanyl."