TWO low-level drug mules used by a Lithuanian drugs gang known as ‘The Russians’ have been jailed after being caught with heroin and cocaine.
The pair had taken a bus to Dublin from Belfast to collect the drugs and were arrested on their return on 9 January this year.
Airidas Sinkevicius (31) and Deivydas Leitmanas (22) of no fixed abode were given a 24-month sentence this week at Belfast Crown Court.
“This a case of joint enterprise importing heroin and cocaine from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland for onward supply by a gang of known as ‘The Russians’.”
He added they were both at a low level and had no “influence on the persons above them in the chain.”
Last August the organised crime gang were targeted in an operation involving the gardaí, the PSNI and Lithuanian police which saw 18 people arrested and cash and property worth €860,000 seized.
Anti-terror police in the Baltic nation carried out a series of raids aimed at the gangster, who controlled the heroin dealing and people trafficking racket from his native country.
Authorities identified up to 65 victims, who are thought to have been trafficked by the gang to the island of Ireland.
A prosecutor in Lithuania said after the August raids the gang used violence to control the people they sought to exploit.
"They would look for socially vulnerable people in Lithuania and promised them good jobs abroad. Under their scheme, they were taken there and forced into criminal activity, and some of them were subjected to violence," said Ruslanas Usinskas, a prosecutor from Klaipeda Regional Prosecutor's Office.
The gang is led by a 37-year-old man from Klaipeda who lived in Ireland for several years before moving back to Lithuania to oversee the criminal operations.