NewsNorthern Ireland

PRAM PUSHERS - The 'Russians' using babies to smuggle heroin

Northern IrelandBy Richard Sullivan
Eastern European dealers in Belfast
Eastern European dealers in Belfast

East European crime bosses used a mother and baby as cover to move bagfuls of heroin in Belfast this week.

An organised crime gang known as The Russians reacted quickly in the face of police drug raids to moved thousands of pounds worth of the class A drug before drug dens could be raided.

The PSNI carried out a major operation this week centred on Ormeau Park and Botanic Gardens, six months after the Sunday World first revealed the extent of the heroin trade in the south Belfast public parks.

In a statement cops said they became aware of gangs selling drugs in the two locations last summer mainly through increased reports of needle finds.

The south of the city is witnessing a boom in the heroin trade. More people have been arrested there on drugs offences than anywhere else in the Province – twenty seven in the last month alone.

Police hailed the operation a major success but the Sunday World can reveal that while raids were being carried out, large amounts of  high grade heroin were being moved.

According to witness two black Mercedes cars were seen to pull up outside a house in the Village are of the city. 

Two large padded envelopes were passed to a young woman on the pavement who in turn put them in a baby’s changing bag.

With a child in the pram she made her way to a footbridge which crosses the railway line and comes out at Ulsterville Avenue off the Lisburn Road.

As previously revealed by the Sunday World The Russians have bought a number of properties along the road, away from their main centre of operations  in the Village and Donegall Pass districts.

Loyalists in the area opposed to the UVF’s link with the drug dealing gang have been keeping their members under surveillance.

“It was perfect,” said our source.

“The girl put the packages in the pram, crossed the bridge and away. Who’s going to stop a single woman wheeling her baby?”

Eastern European crime bosses have taken control of the heroin and cocaine trade across Belfast. The Sunday World first uncovered their operation in December 2013, since then they have been slowly expanding their criminal empire.

The Dublin-based gang, made up mainly of Lithuanian and Latvian nationals, is highly organised and heavily armed. 

They muscled in on the city’s drug trade selling high grade cocaine, heroin and crystal meth for £25 a bag – undercutting local dealers while selling better quality narcotics.

Their method is simple. Buyers make contact with one of the main dealers by telephone. A rendezvous is agreed and the transaction is complete within minutes.

The seller arrives on bike, the buyer hands over £25 and the drugs are handed over. There is no conversation and the seller can disappear in seconds.

The Sunday World witnessed and photographed drug dealers going down at Ormeau Park and Botanic Gardens last summer.

One dealer, identified as Andre, had been openly dealing drugs in the upmarket North Parade district, close to a children’s playpark and yards from the Ormeau Bowling Green.

Andre and other dealers, including a girl with bright dyed red hair, were been selling heron in an alley on North Parade,  and from a bus-stop at the gates of Cooke Centenary Church.

Rush hour commuters were oblivious  to the drug pushers working in broad daylight.

They had been a regular sight with the police seemingly powerless to do anything.    Despite our expose the gang simply took Andre off  the streets replacing him with another biker dealer.

He arrived on motorbike, parking close to the bus-stop outside the church. It is understood he was approached by police who tried to move him on but he said his bike had run out of petrol and that he was waiting for a friend.

Witnesses said he did a drug deal shortly after the police left and rode off .

On a separate occasion a lone dealer was picked up in a top of the range Mercedes after selling drugs to another customer.

Many of the pushers are themselves drug users, paid in kind by the crime gang bosses and there is now growing concern at the dramatic rise in the availability of heroin in Belfast. 

As previously revealed by the Sunday World, Northern Ireland has been targeted by foreign organised crime gangs with at least two outfits fighting for control of the lucrative trade in south Belfast.

The Russians muscled in on The Village and Donegall Road, setting up a number of brothels trafficking women from eastern Europe and putting them to work as sex workers. The women are also forced to courier drugs into Northern Ireland.

Despite initial resistance the UVF under the leadership of coke head Eddie ‘Onions’ Rainey went into partnership with the organised crime gang.

The Sunday World can also reveal the gang has extended its trade into  Mid Ulster. In a move that has mirrored their south Belfast operation, they  have taken over large chunks of the drugs trade in Portadown.

According to PSNI statistics covering the past two years, herbal cannabis has been the most seized drug in Northern Ireland, followed by cannabis resin, benzodiazepines – such as illicitly sold diazepam – and cocaine.

However, heroin was the drug being most widely sold in Belfast’s parks, according to the PSNI.

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