The Police Service of Northern Ireland conducted five searches in Belfast on Wednesday, 26 August as part of its involvement in a joint operation with judicial authorities and police in Lithuania and the Republic of Ireland

Two men, aged 40 and 44, and a 39-year-old woman were 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. The 44-year-old man was arrested via a European Arrest warrant.

The 44-year-old man appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court yesterday (Wednesday, 26th August). The 40-year-old man remains in custody while the woman has been released on bail, pending further enquiries.

This operation was set up specifically to disrupt and dismantle Lithuanian organised crime groups who are working in Northern Ireland; Republic of Ireland and Lithuania.   

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.

“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. 

“Since 2014 the Police Service of Northern Ireland have arrested 54 persons with links to the targeted Lithuanian Crime Group.  These people have been taken before the courts for drugs offences related to heroin.

Speaking about the operation Detective Inspector Shaw said: “In 2018 a joint investigation team (JIT) was set up between the Lithuanian authorities and the Police Service of Northern Ireland with financial and analytical support from Eurojust.  Authorities in the Republic of Ireland also joined the JIT during this investigation.

“The success of this operation, which involved a two and a half year investigation, would not have been possible without the close co-operation and sharing of information and evidence between the Lithuanian, Irish and Northern Irish authorities, as well Eurojust’s support in facilitating the judicial cooperation between all the parties involved.

“This was a highly complex operation which has proven that taking a collaborative approach can definitely bring about very positive outcomes.

“We all know that serious and organised crime groups pose a significant risk of harm to the people of Northern Ireland. They are responsible for bringing in drugs and they deal in fear and exploitation which can bring misery to many.

“Crime groups choose to exploit some of the most vulnerable people within our societies, preying on their vulnerabilities and exploiting them for their own ends.

“The only people to profit from are those at the top of the ‘drugs tree’.  They are able to fund a lifestyle that we can only dream about.  They don’t care that they have built their lavish life on the misery of those whose lives they have destroyed.

“Heroin is a highly addictive drug and people who use it frequently can become tolerant to it. The ‘user’ then needs to take higher and higher doses to get the desired effect they once got with a smaller quantity of the drug.  Needing higher doses of heroin to satisfy their addiction  the person becomes more dependent on the supplier of this ‘deadly’ drug supplying it to them.

“The PSNI is determined to try and eradicate all harm caused to our communities and that is why our involvement in this joint operation is a priority.

“Organised crime groups think they can ‘fly below the radar of law enforcement’, however this is clearly not the case and our results demonstrate that no-one is beyond the reach of the law.

Detective Inspector Shaw concluded: “We will continue to disrupt organised crime groups and drug pushers operating here in Northern Ireland”.