Drugs and cars with a combined value of more than £450,000 (€525,000) have been seized in Co Down by detectives investigating a suspected organised crime gang.

Cannabis plants worth over £350,000 (€408,000) were recovered from a concealed cultivation factory in Ballyward near Castlewellan.

Seven vehicles valued at upwards of £100,000, among them a number of top of the range models, were also seized.

Seven men and one woman from Northern Ireland were arrested in yesterday's raids.

Five men remained in custody today while the other three suspects have been released on bail.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Roy McComb said the growing operation had been running for a number of months.

"This had a high level of sophistication," he said.

"It had been set up with electricity, with water facilities, with ventilation, there was an effort to disguise the location of it."

He added: "I believe this crime gang was involved in distributing this cannabis around Northern Ireland.

"We have taken these drugs out of circulation and we have made the streets of Northern Ireland safer because of the activities that we conducted yesterday."

Among the cars seized were two BMWs and a Mercedes.