NewsCrime Desk

Gardai close in on ruthless Lithuanian crime gang

Crime DeskBy Patrick O'Connell
Aurimas Andruska
Aurimas Andruska

A RUTHLESS Lithuanian gang trafficking cocaine and heroin into north Kerry have now emerged as the area’s top target for Gardaí combating drugs in the county.

A senior source has confirmed to the Sunday World that the crime syndicate has been described as “a plague” in court.

They are flooding drugs into Waterford, Cork, Galway and Sligo and have assumed almost full control of the trade in Tralee.

Gardaí believe the gang – whose staging point in Munster is believed to be in Cork –  rose to prominence unopposed following the death of the town’s ‘Mr Big’, James Powell, in 2014.

James Powell

Powell, a known associate of the McCarthy-Dundon gang who was described by Gardaí as the leading figure in Kerry’s underworld, died suddenly at his home in Tralee in July that year.

“The Lithuanian gang are our top target and although we have yet to establish the gang’s hierarchy, we would be satisfied this is a highly organised and extremely dangerous crew,” a source told the Sunday World.

“They recruit new arrivals from their home country not just with the promise of money, but also through deaths threats and threats against family members.

“The mules are terrified and when caught almost universally refuse to identify who is supplying them with the drugs.

“Because they carry only small quantities from their stash at any one time, when they are caught they receive sentences of up to a maximum of three years and then leave the jurisdiction.”

In July of this year Denias Kamajevas was denied bail after Gardaí told Listowel District Court how, during a planned search of the man’s hostel accommodation, they uncovered a cigarette box containing nine ‘deals’ of heroin.

Gardaí alleged that the defendant was part of an organised gang from Lithuania suspected of dealing heroin in Tralee. Kamajevas remains before the courts.

Another Lithuanian known by Gardaí to have been dealing heroin in the county is the killer of Jolanta Lubiene and her daughter Enrika.

Jolanta Lubiene and her daughter Enrika

Aurimas Andruska became involved in crime and was convicted of acquisition and storage of heroin and he became a user.

He was still using heroin when he moved to Killorglin in 2008, when he spent eight months in the country, living in 9 Langford Downs, the same house where he would eventually kill Jolanta and her daughter. He was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences.

In 2014 Gardaí scored another major hit against the gang with the arrest of Lithuanian Eimantas Malinauskas for supplying heroin and the lethal drug NRG at Castlemaine.

Eimantas Malinauskas

Tralee Circuit Court heard that confidential information indicated that a car park at the rear of a restaurant in Castlemaine was being used as a place to deal heroin without the knowledge of  the property’s owners.

Gardaí carried out a search of a vehicle in the car park and heroin and a quantity of the psychoactive drug NRG2 were found.

Gardaí conducted a follow-up search of a house at Cois Abhainn, Castlemaine road and found Malinauskas trying to escape out the back garden. He received a three-year sentence.

Dozens of other Lithuanians have been arrested throughout Munster and Connacht.

Lithuanian Mindaugas Palizija was arrested in Limerick in 2013 after getting off a bus with 114 bags of heroin worth in excess of €3,500 in his pocket.

After arriving in Ireland six weeks earlier, he was put up, fed and supplied with drugs for his own use by compatriots.

He was ordered to deal drugs to work off his own debt.

Another associate, Zilvinas Antanovas (27), said that he was duped into coming here from Lithuania by eastern European gangsters who took his passport and forced him to start dealing.

In September last year, Egious Sikys, who was described as “being high up on the food chain”, was charged in Antrim with having 2.5 kilos of
cocaine.

Egious Sikys

It was alleged during a bail hearing that Sikys said the cocaine had a purity of 90 per cent and claimed “if released he may be killed and he would be in need of protection”.

Tracking the gang’s supply route is a major hurdle for Gardai, a second source revealed, but previous discoveries by authorities have proven strong links between organised crime in Lithuania and Colombian drug cartels.

Last September, police in Lithuania’s central Kaunas county announced the record seizure of 600 kilograms of cocaine mixed in with shipments of coal.

Officers dug through a total of 367 tons of coal by hand before recovering the drugs, which had been compressed into blocks of the fossil fuel in a high-tech attempt to disguise it.

Police described it as the largest cocaine bust ever made in Lithuania. Nine suspects were arrested, including a Colombian national.

 “Officers have yet to hit the motherload in establishing the identities of those behind the gang’s activities in Tralee and north Kerry,” our source said.

“But officers are hitting their couriers every chance we get.

“This is something new in that these people are unknown to us until we catch them… back in the day you’d be able to say this stash belongs to that fella, but that’s not the case with this gang.

“But that doesn’t mean they can’t be stopped, it’s just a case of evolving to meet a new challenge.”