GARDAI helped crackdown on an evil human-trafficking and heroin-smuggling network as part of an international operation yesterday.
A total of 18 people were arrested as part of the operation with five of the suspects detained following searches across Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Kerry.
The organised crime group is suspected of having trafficked large quantities of heroin to Ireland and Northern Ireland and trafficked victims to facilitate class A drug dealing.
They are also suspected of associated money laundering with assets worth €700,000 seized in total.
According to Europol, the criminals had set up a complex distribution network here and in the North exploiting victims they had trafficked from Lithuania to act as drug dealers and mules on their behalf.
At least 65 individuals, identified as coming from a vulnerable social background or being drug addicts themselves, have been trafficked by the gang.
A financial investigation is also ongoing to trace the criminal proceeds laundered through the use of complex financial transactions and purchase of assets such as real estate.
GARDAI HELP DISMANTLE GANG
Gardai, as part of a joint investigation team with law enforcement authorities in Lithuania and the PSNI, took part in yesterday’s international day of action.
The five people arrested in Ireland were brought before a special sitting of the High Court for extradition proceedings.
Four of the individuals were remanded in custody to appear before the court at a later date while the fifth was remanded on bail to appear at a later date, subject to certain conditions.
In Northern Ireland, five searches were conducted across Belfast with two men, 40 and 44, and a woman, 39, being arrested.
The 40-year-old man and the woman were arrested under the Misuse of Drugs Act in Belfast as part of this operation.
The woman was also arrested on suspicion of being involved in human trafficking.
‘WE WILL PURSUE YOU’
The 44-year-old man was arrested via a European arrest warrant and appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
The 40-year-old man remains in custody while the woman has been released on bail, pending further enquiries.
Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll, who heads up Organised and Serious Crime within the gardai said: “The operational activity undertaken across three jurisdictions yesterday illustrates the potential to tackle suspected criminal activity engaged in by those who are involved in organised crime that has an international dimension.”
PSNI Detective Inspector Shaw said: “The Organised Crime Group targeted today is believed to be responsible for trafficking large quantities of heroin into Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
“It is also believed that one of the members of this group, who is from Lithuania, is responsible for recruiting and trafficking people from Lithuania for drug trafficking and money laundering in Northern Ireland.
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“The arrests and the seizure of cash and drugs-related paraphernalia would not have been possible without the close collaborative working of all the agencies involved. “
Head of Europol’s Serious Organised Crime Centre, Jari Liukku, said: These are fantastic results that are the culmination of a major investigation involving teams from across Europe working closely together to target criminals who are causing harm in local communities.
“I hope people are reassured by this robust and coordinated approach which sends a loud and clear message to those involved in the supply of class A drugs: we will pursue you tirelessly and relentlessly.”