18 arrested in crackdown on Lithuanian gang trafficking victims to Ireland and the UK to sell heroin
On 26 August, law enforcement and judicial authorities have made 18 arrests during a massive coordinated operation to smash an organised crime group suspected of trafficking victims from Lithuania to Ireland and the UK (Northern Ireland) to facilitate class A drug dealing.
This targeted activity was led by the judicial and police authorities in Lithuania, together with the Irish Police (An Garda Síochána) and the British Police Service of Northern Ireland with the full support of Europol and Eurojust.
The organised crime group, composed of Lithuanian nationals, is suspected of having trafficked large quantities of heroin to Ireland and Northern Ireland.
These criminals had set up a complex distribution network in these two countries, exploiting victims they had trafficked from Lithuania to act as drug dealers and drug mules on their behalf. At least 65 individuals coming from a vulnerable social background or being drug addicts themselves, have been identified as having been trafficked from this criminal network.
This international action day is the culmination of an operation which was first referred to Eurojust by the Lithuanian authorities in 2017 due to the cross-border dimension of the criminal activity.
A joint investigation team (JIT) was shortly thereafter set up between the Lithuanian authorities and their counterparts in the UK (Northern Ireland) and Ireland, with financial and analytical support from Eurojust.
The smooth running of the action across three countries was enabled through a coordination set up at Eurojust, while Europol provided a secure platform allowing for the exchange of operational information in real time and remote crosschecks during the action day.
A financial investigation is currently ongoing to trace the criminal proceeds laundered through the use of complex financial transactions and purchase of assets such as real estate.
Commenting on this action day, the 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.