Two of the main figures in a Lithuanian organised crime gang that controls the heroin trade in Kerry are on the run following co-ordinated multi national raids last month.
n all 18 members of the gang were arrested in a series of raids, co-ordinated through Europol, which took place in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Lithuania.
One of the arrests followed a raid in Kerry where the gang has built up a major presence in the greater Tralee area.
The man arrested in Kerry is now facing extradition proceedings in the High Court on foot of an international warrant that was issued by Lithuanian authorities.
Europol say the gang – which is also involved in prostitution – has a complex multi-million Euro distribution network that typically uses people trafficked from Lithuania to act as dealers and drug mules.
Several members of the gang have previously come before the courts in Kerry. At one hearing involving a member of the gang the Court heard that the gang’s leader in Lithuania had specifically targeted Tralee as “a lucrative spot” to sell heroin.
While the gang’s operations were initially mainly centred in Dublin they moved their activities out of the capital having come under sustained pressure from Gardaí.
That followed an acid attack on a Dublin garda detective who had been investigating the gang’s activities.
The gang subsequently switched their focus to Kerry, Cork and Waterford where they had already carved out a niche in the local drug trade.
Its members took control of the Kerry drug trade following the demise of the Limerick based McCarthy-Dundon gang whose representatives were previously the main players in Kerry’s illicit drug market.
Gardaí believe one of the Lithuanian gang’s main figures was centrally involved in the shipment of a “very significant” amount of heroin into Kerry in recent years.
In the wake of the international raids two of the gang’s leading members in Ireland – one who is thought to be the gang’s top figure in this country – are now on the run.
Both men, who have been closely linked to crime in Kerry, are understood to have evaded arrest as they were out of the country when the co-ordinated raids took place on August 26.
The simultaneous raids were focused on the “dealing hubs” set up by the gang.
Large amounts of drugs, cash and documentation were seized in the Irish raids.
The pair that managed to avoid arrest were understood to be the main targets in the Irish phase of the multi-national operation.
Gardaí and authorities across Europe are now on the lookout for the men who are the subject of international arrest warrants and are priority targets for Lithuanian organised crime prosecutors.
Revenue and the Criminal Assets Bureau are carrying out their own investigations into the gang’s money laundering activities.