A 41-year-old Limerick man gardaí believe to be one of Ireland’s biggest drugs suppliers has been arrested in Belgium.
His arrest follows an operation involving gardaí and their counterparts in the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium.
The man has been a target of the Garda National Drugs Unit for the past few years and gardaí now believe they have broken up his drugs network.
Nicknamed 'Chaser', he has been a wholesale drugs supplier based in Amsterdam for years. Gardaí say he has been responsible for smuggling huge quantities of cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy into Ireland.
Among the hauls that have been linked to him are €10 million worth of cannabis found in Knockirr in Co Kildare in August, cocaine found in a warehouse in Ardee, 20 kilos of cocaine found in Cork, and LSD found in Dublin.
He has also been linked to the recent haul of €750,000 worth of cocaine found hidden in sets and costumes in Britain destined for an Opera Ireland production of La Traviata.
The man was arrested last week after he had crossed from Holland to Belgium and a magistrate has ordered his continued detention as police in five countries continue their investigations.
The Spanish police also have an interest in him as much of the cocaine sourced in South America and cannabis from North Africa was moved through Spain.
After the man’s arrest, police in Belgium raided a number of premises and found ecstasy tablets, five firearms and ammunition, cannabis, illegal cigarettes, pre-cursor chemicals and a mobile ecstasy laboratory with the capacity to make up to 50,000 tablets an hour.
It is the first drugs manufacturing facility the Belgians have come across this year and they say they now realise that that is because mobile labs seem to have replaced static ones and have therefore been more difficult to find.
In simultaneous raids police in Holland found a static ecstasy lab and two firearms. One man was arrested there with a revolver under his bed.
A Belgian man is still also in custody along with the Limerick man who is being held on suspicion of membership of and participation in a criminal organisation.