A Lithuanian gang suspected of trafficking humans to smuggle heroin to Ireland and Northern Ireland has been disbanded by the European Union’s largest law enforcement agency.
Europol announced the bust, which led to the arrest of 18 Lithuanian nationals, in a press release on Thursday. Europol had been working on the operation with the Irish Police (An Garda Síochána), the British Police Service of Northern Ireland, and the European Union’s Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) since 2017.
The group allegedly trafficked “large quantities of heroin” by exploiting around 65 victims “they had trafficked from Lithuania”, who were forced to act as drug mules and drug dealers on the gang’s behalf.
Most victims are said to have been drug addicts themselves.
Massive coordinated operation to smash a crime group suspected of trafficking victims from ?? to ?? and ?? to facilitate drug trafficking.
— Europol (@Europol) August 27, 2020
“The smooth running of the action across three countries was enabled through a coordination set up at Eurojust, while Europol provided a secure platform allowing for the exchange of operational information in real time and remote crosschecks during the action day,” the statement read.
Europol supported police forces from Lithuania, Ireland and the UK by providing analytical and financial support. The agency is tasked with assisting EU Member States in solving cross-border crime.
“I hope people are reassured by this robust and coordinated approach which sends a loud and clear message to those involved in the supply of class A drugs: we will pursue you tirelessly and relentlessly,” Head of Europol’s Serious Organised Crime Centre Jari Liukku said, adding that the mission had yielded “fantastic results”.
Earlier this week, a joint mission between Europol, Eurojust and United States authorities shut down one of the biggest online piracy networks in the world, which allegedly streamed films and television series illegally worldwide.
The Brussels Times