Eighteen people, including ten in Lithuania, have been detained as part of a large scale international operation against drug trade, human trafficking and money laundering, according to Lithuanian Police.
Criminals recruited people in Lithuania to sell drugs on the streets in Ireland and the UK. At least 65 potential victims of human trafficing were identified during the operation, according to the police.
"They would look for socially vulnerable people in Lithuania and promised them good jobs abroad. Under that scheme, they were taken there and forced into criminal activity, and some of them were subjected to violence," said Ruslanas Ušinskas, a prosecutor from Klaipeda Regional Prosecutor's Office.
Eight Lithuanian nationals were detained in Ireland under European arrest warrants and are currently in custody.
The operation involved Lithuania’s anti-terrorism police unit ARAS, the country's Financial Crimes Investigation Service (FNTT), as well as representatives of the Irish and British police.
Searches were carried out in 65 places internationally and more than 136,000 euros and over 12,000 British pounds were seized during the operation. Also, assets worth over 700,000 euros were frozen, including apartments and cars.
According to police, the criminal group was led by a resident of Klaipėda, born in 1983. He used to live in Ireland before moving back to Lithuania to oversee the criminal operations, using drug money to buy assets and establish business to launder money.
The majority of the people involved had previous convictions abroad, according to Ušinskas.
Alfonsas Motuzas, chief of Klaipėda County Police, told reporters that the information about Lithuanian nationals selling drugs in Ireland and laundering the funds in Lithuania reached them five years ago.
"They had ties with Irish gangs and received the majority of orders from there, and the Lithuanians were in charge of the whole logistics and all other matters that had to do with the execution of the criminal activity," Motuzas said.