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A file photo of a heroin seizure. Garda Press Office

Two leading members of Lithuanian human trafficking crime gang evade capture during garda raids

The raids happened last week.

TWO LEADING MEMBERS of a Lithuanian gang responsible for the sale of millions of euro worth of heroin in Ireland are on the run following garda raids last week.

Last week, gardaí along with Lithuanian police and members of Europol raided a number of premises across the island of Ireland, arresting 18 suspected members of the heroin gang. The arrests were made here, in the North as well as in Europe.  This was conducted as an international day of action involving several police forces. 

However, has learned that two of the main targets of this operation in Ireland evaded capture as they were out of the country at the time. 

These two men are suspected of ordering attacks on rival gangs as well as being in charge of the human trafficking dealings of the gang. 

Gardaí believe there are over 100 people who have been trafficked into Ireland to carry out work for the gang. 

Europol said these criminals had set up a complex distribution network, exploiting victims they had trafficked from Lithuania to act as drug dealers and drug mules on their behalf.

At least 65 people working for this gang have so far been identified as victims of human trafficking. Many of them are drug addicts or people with serious vulnerabilities, according to gardaí and Europol.

These people are promised legitimate work from the gang. But when they arrive in Ireland, they have their passports taken and are forced to take part in the drugs trade. 

The trafficked people are used as disposable pawns by the gang. If they are arrested for possession with intent to supply, they are usually given bail as it would be their first offence in Ireland. The surety is paid by gang cash and then the young indentured drug dealer is moved to another location where they are once again forced to sell drugs. The dealers are given around €2 for every bag they sell.

Last week’s raids focused on various hubs set up by the gang to ensure they have their product in most pockets of the island. 

The raids were carried out in Dublin, Kerry, Cork and Waterford. Premises in Belfast were also searched during the operation. 

The gang is also suspected of carrying out campaigns of intimidation against members of the gardaí as well as those in the legal profession. 

Gardaí have shared all information they have gathered with their Lithuanian counterparts. It is expected that much of the seized documentation and assets will be sent to Lithuania where there are stronger organised crime laws. 

Last week’s international day of action against this heroin gang resulted in five people who were arrested in Ireland being brought before a special sitting of the High Court for extradition proceedings. This resulted in four of the individuals remanded in custody to the High Court at a later date while the fifth individual was remanded on bail to the High Court at a later date. 

Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll, who heads up Organised and Serious Crime (OSC) within An Garda Síochána said at the time: “The operational activity undertaken across three jurisdictions [...] illustrates the potential to tackle suspected criminal activity engaged in by those who are involved in organised crime that has an international dimension”.

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