Five people have been arrested following a garda operation which targeted a Lithuanian criminal gang operating  in Ireland suspected of drug trafficking, human trafficking and money laundering.

The arrests were made yesterday following eight searches in counties Cork, Dublin, Kerry and Waterford on European arrest warrants.

The operation, which was supported by Europol, was carried out by gardaí, the PSNI and law enforcement authorities in Lithuania.

The five arrested have appeared before the High Court and will be before the court again in the coming weeks.

Commenting on the arrests, Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll, who heads up Organised and Serious Crime within An Garda Síochána said: "The operational activity undertaken across three jurisdictions yesterday illustrates the potential to tackle suspected criminal activity engaged in by those who are involved in organised crime that has an international dimension".

Meanwhile, three people have been arrested as part of the same operation in Northern Ireland.

The PSNI carried out five searches in Belfast yesterday.

Two men, aged 40 and 44, and a 39-year old woman were arrested.

The 40-year-old man and the woman were held under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The woman was also arrested on suspicion of being involved in human trafficking. The 44-year-old man was detained under a European Arrest Warrant.

The PSNI described the operation as "set up specifically to disrupt and dismantle Lithuanian organised crime groups who are working in Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Lithuania".

A spokesman said the group targeted is believed to be responsible for trafficking large quantities of heroin into Ireland.

"It is also believed that one of the members of this group, who is from Lithuania, is responsible for recruiting and trafficking people from Lithuania for drug trafficking and money laundering in Northern Ireland," he said.

"The arrests and the seizure of cash and drugs-related paraphernalia would not have been possible without the close collaborative working of all the agencies involved.

"Since 2014 the Police Service of Northern Ireland have arrested 54 persons with links to the targeted Lithuanian crime group. These people have been taken before the courts for drugs offences related to heroin."

The spokesman added that, in 2018, a joint investigation team was set up between the Lithuanian authorities and the PSNI, with financial and analytical support from Eurojust, the EU judicial co-operation agency.