GARDAÍ IN KERRY believe that a Lithuanian heroin gang – suspected of carrying out an acid attack on a garda and which was previously active in the east of the country – have moved a large portion of its trade to the southwest of the country.
It is understood the organised crime group shifted its main focus to the southwest as successful garda operations continue to be launched against them in Dublin and Louth.
Sources believe a significant quantity of drugs – intended for sale in the Kerry area – were prepared for transport by a known 25-year-old Lithuanian criminal. Dealers had already been selling in the area but the operations were intensified in recent months.
They believe their main suspect moved to Ireland following his release from a UK prison and has become of the leading men in the heroin trade outside the capital.
He had spent time in jails in Newcastle and Scotland, including a 10-month sentence for burglary and deception. He remains wanted in Scotland in relation to similar charges but escaped to Ireland, where he already had connections, before a planned court hearing.
The gang, which has been selling heroin nationwide for the last eight years, has increased the number of people involved in the trade in Kerry, well-placed sources have said.
Gardaí continue to fight against its work and have seen some successes over the last few years, much of it in Cork and Kerry. Last year, gardaí secured a number of convictions. For example, Zenaras Slipkus (48) was previously ordered to leave Ireland and not return for 10 years after he obstructed a drugs search in Kerry but he returned and was found selling heroin. He was jailed for three years.
Earlier this month, Modestas Svagzdys was jailed for six months for obstruction of a garda investigation. Galway District Court heard that Svagzdys was a low-level member of a criminal gang and had racked up 27 convictions here in a short space of time.
In recent weeks in Kerry along, hundreds of individual wraps of suspected heroin were seized. Gardaí have also issued intelligence updates to all of its drug units in the south and south-west to be aware of the increase in dealing by this Lithuanian gang.
The gang’s way of recruiting new members is to promise young and poor people from Eastern Europe that they will get legitimate jobs when they arrive into Ireland. But when they do get here, their passports are taken from them and they are forced into either the drug or sex trade, depending on their gender.
Gardaí are working with their Lithuanian counterparts who are aware of the criminal past of the top two in the gang. Intelligence is constantly being shared between the two countries. The PSNI is also kept up-to-date due to the gang’s connection to Belfast.
A number of Criminal Assets Bureau investigations – as well as Revenue probes – are also ongoing. Gardaí believe they know who the gang’s drug supplier is and a number of potential fronts for washing drug money are also being probed.