ONE person was arrested in Midleton as part of an international operation to smash the activities of a Lithuanian-led organised crime group.
The person arrested in Midleton was one of five arrested during the Irish leg of the operation which targeted Cork, Kerry, Dublin and Waterford. A further 13 arrests were made in the UK and Lithuania.
Eight locations were also searched in Cork, Kerry and Waterford.
Various assets were seized, with an estimated overall value of €700,000.
The Irish arrests were made on foot of European Arrest Warrants.
The gang under investigation was led by a Lithuanian who was responsible for recruiting and trafficking people from Lithuania for drug trafficking and money laundering. According to police, the gang is suspected of having trafficked large quantities of heroin into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Police forces involved believe they have dismantled a criminal network responsible for drug trafficking, money laundering and trafficking in human beings. At least 65 people were exploited as street dealers.
A spokesman for Eurojust, the EU Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation, said: "Together with two other individuals, he set up a complex drug transport and distribution network in Ireland and the UK, in which at least 20 individuals have been involved since 2015."
The spokesman added: "The investigation revealed street dealers operating in the UK and Ireland, who were nearly all Lithuanians. At least 65 people were identified, mostly from vulnerable social backgrounds or drug addicts themselves. Many of these people had been trafficked by the leaders of the OCG with the specific intent to commit crime, i.e. illegally sell drugs on the streets. Proceeds from the criminal activity were laundered by purchasing various real estate properties and other related financial transactions. A financial investigation is currently ongoing."
The operation was carried out in Ireland by gardaí from the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) with assistance from personnel based in Cork, Waterford and Kerry.
Gardai joined with law enforcement authorities in Lithuania and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), supported by Eurojust and Europol to tackle an organised crime group.
A garda spokesman said the "international day of action resulted in the 5 individuals arrested in Ireland, brought before a special sitting of the High Court for extradition proceedings. This resulted in 4 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, subject to certain conditions."
Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll, who heads up Organised and Serious Crime (OSC) within An Garda Síochána 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”.