Arrests Halt International Gun And Drug Operation

Around £3.25m worth of heroin and over two dozen handguns were seized by police yesterday as part of an international anti-organised crime operation that spanned both the Irish border and mainland Europe as well.

Two men were arrested - one on each side of the Irish border - and a total of 27 firearms were discovered as the international police operation against a trafficking gang swung into action.

The PSNI believe that the 14 guns recovered in Northern Ireland were set to be distributed to criminals elements in the Province while the man arrested at a Belfast city centre hotel in connection with the find turned out to be from the Irish Republic.

Police said that as well as the pistols, a quantity of ammunition was also seized.

It is believed that a well known Irish criminal, currently in gaol, was the 'brains' behind the whole criminal operation which was stymied by the highly successful international police operation on Tuesday.

In the Republic, another small arsenal of weapons was seized along with more than 20 kilos of heroin and 14 kilos of herbal cannabis.

A 42-year-old man was also detained in north Dublin and a dozen separate raids were mounted along the Irish east coast.

Detectives suspect a leading and well-known Irish criminal, presently serving a prison sentence in the Republic, may have been connected to the drugs and gun running operation.

Gardai said last night that a "mini-arsenal of weapons was taken off the streets" including four automatic handguns, silencers and pistols.

Gardai, the PSNI and Dutch police were all involved in the intelligence and surveillance-led operation which has run for several months.

This is believed to be a significant operation, targeting those involved in organised crime in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Europe.

The overall investigation has apparently been well planned and has been ongoing for some time and involved close liaison between An Gardai Siochana, the Dutch police service, the UK's HMRC and its Irish opposite number, the Irish Revenue Commissioners.

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy (pictured) said the arrests had damaged a powerful European drugs trafficking network: "We believe that this operation has made significant inroads into an international organised crime gang involved on a large scale in the importation of drugs and firearms into Ireland and the United Kingdom," he said.

The Republic's Justice Minister Dermot Ahern praised the success of the operation and congratulated the Garda Commissioner and the international police forces concerned.


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