Gardaí in Waterford have searched 30 homes and seized a large amount of documentation and cash as part of an investigation into the activities of an organised criminal gang.

The operation was set up to target the activities through which the gang finances its criminal activities, including illegal money lending and money laundering.

The investigation is focusing on the ownership of houses and cars believed to be the proceeds of crime.

This operation involved gardaí from Waterford and specialist units including armed regional support, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Organised Crime Unit and the dog and air support units.

Around 130 gardaí searched 30 homes throughout Waterford city seizing documentation and cash.

More than €10,000 was seized in one house.

The target is the largest organised crime gang in the South East, which gardaí say is involved in serious crime, including murder.

Officers say poor people who borrow money from the gang end up repaying the debt more than ten times over.

Some have had their social welfare and children's allowance books confiscated so that the gang can take their benefits

Others have been forced to commit crime on behalf of the gang.

Gardaí say the organisation is based around ten different family groupings and criminal associates and is involved in threatening and intimidating businesses as well as individuals.

Victims have been afraid to make statements and give evidence but 40 suspects have previously been arrested in relation to over 100 crimes and convictions have been secured for robberies, thefts and assaults.

Detectives are now also examining financial transactions involving the purchase of 12 houses and eight cars which they believe are the proceeds of crime.