Five men have been arrested as part of an ongoing investigation into the deliberate tampering of microchips and identification passports of horses sent to abattoirs.

Officers from the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigations (GNBCI) arrested the men, who are aged between 35 and 55, this morning.

The arrests are the latest development in an ongoing operation led by the GNBCI, with support from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

It is part of an ongoing investigation into a number of people who gardaí say are engaged in offences of organised deception and fraudulent practices, involving the tampering of identification passports and microchips of horses presented for slaughter here.

The men are being held at garda stations in Carrick-on-Shannon, Longford and Roscommon.

Planned searches were also carried out at locations in Roscommon, Leitrim, Sligo, Westmeath and Kilkenny.

A total of seven sites are being searched, including farms, houses and a commercial premises.

The searches are supported by officers from the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, and the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau.