Drug trafficking | 

Rapist among two arrested in probe into Lithuanian drugs gang operating in Ireland

The gang dubbed ‘The Russians’, despite being predominantly made up of Lithuanians, allegedly forced dozens of vulnerable people to work for them selling drugs in Ireland and Northern Ireland

Alan SherrySunday World

Authorities in Northern Ireland and Lithuania have arrested two men including a convicted rapist stemming from an investigation into a gang which flooded Ireland with heroin, cocaine and other drugs using a network of “slave” dealers.

The gang dubbed ‘The Russians’, despite being predominantly made up of Lithuanians, allegedly forced dozens of vulnerable people to work for them selling drugs in Ireland and Northern Ireland and 30 suspects were previously arrested as part a joint operation involving Gardai, PSNI and Lithuanian authorities in 2020.

That operation led to the identification of other individuals involved in drug trafficking between Lithuania and Ireland.

On November 23 this year, the PSNI and Lithuanian police with the support of Eurojust, the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation arrested two suspects, one in Northern Ireland and one in Lithuania, for involvement in large-scale drug trafficking in Northern Ireland.

A 32-year-old man was arrested in Lithuania on suspicion of organising distribution of cocaine in Northern Ireland and Lithuania. He has been detained for three months while investigations continue.

A 41-year-old from Lithuania who has previous convictions for rape, theft and robbery was arrested in Northern Ireland after an international arrested warrant was issued for him in Lithuania.

A Eurojust spokesperson said: “One of these suspects is the alleged ringleader of an organised crime group (OCG), which ran a cocaine trafficking network from the Lithuanian side.

“This cooperation and the two arrests concern a different network, on which information came to light as result of a previous successful large-scale operation in Lithuania, Ireland and the UK, held in August 2020. During the initial operation and its immediate aftermath, 30 suspects were arrested for running a trafficking network and exploiting vulnerable, often addicted victims for the street sale of drugs. Eurojust assisted with the set-up and financing of a joint investigation team into the case.”

Many of those who worked for the gang say they were tricked into travelling to Ireland from Lithuania with the promises of legitimate jobs only to be forced to work as slaves in the drugs trade.

“Up to now, at least one hundred potential victims involved in the initial investigation pertaining to human trafficking and distributing heroin, were identified. Most of them are Lithuanians from a poor background, who, it is believed, were recruited and trafficked by the OCG to Ireland and Northern Ireland and forced to sell heroin, among other things.”

Lithuanian national Kestutis Klemauskas (38), who previously lived in Blanchardstown in Dublin, is alleged to have being a key leader of the gang and is currently before the courts in his native country in relation to the investigation. He was arrested in Lithuania in 2020 as part of the operation after he fled Ireland when gardai targeted him in an operation here.

He is facing charges in relation to drug dealing, organised crime offences and exploitation of people for drug distribution and money laundering and falsification of a document and earlier this year a garda gave evidence via videolink to a Lithuanian court about his activities while here,

It emerged this week that a lawyer and bailiff, both based in Lithuania, have also been charged in relation to the investigation in connection.

Several others are also before the courts.

“The criminal network was known for its use of violence to pressure its victims. In total, 320 witnesses were interviewed for the initial investigation in 2020 into human trafficking and distributing heroin.”

Authorities say it was the investigation into that gang which led to the identification of the suspects arrested two weeks ago.

“Further investigations led to information concerning two more leading suspects, who were arrested during a recent operation, coordinated by Eurojust. The alleged ringleader was arrested in Lithuania and the other suspect was apprehended in Northern Ireland, for whom an International Arrest Warrant had been issued. The authorities in the three countries will now decide on further judicial actions against these two suspects.”

Cocaine and around €180,000 in cash were seized as part of the operation along with property belonging to a suspect including a house, a car, luxury watches and a plot of land.

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