Lithuanian man accused of trafficking vulnerable people into Ireland to sell heroin extradited

Aurimas Mecius (34) was allegedly part of a large Eastern European gang involved in heroin trade in Ireland

A Lithuanian man accused of trafficking vulnerable people to Ireland to sell heroin has been extradited to his native country to face serious organised crime charges.

Last week, Lithuanian police drove a prison van to Ireland to pick up Aurimas Mecius and transport him via ferry and road back to the Eastern European country.

Even though many of the alleged offences were committed in Ireland, the High Court agreed to extradite Mecius to Lithuania as that was where the trafficked victims came from and where the drug money was laundered.

Mecius (34) is allegedly part of a large gang of Eastern European criminals under the control of a man identified in court documents as “KK” which targeted vulnerable people in Lithuania and convinced or tricked them into travelling to Ireland. Once in the State they were made sell heroin in various counties and hand over the money to the gang, Lithuanian authorities alleged. The gang also operated in Northern Ireland.

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It is understood Mecius was transported over land after he refused to board a plane. He was brought to Dublin Port by gardaí wearing full riot control gear on Thursday last week where he was loaded in to the prison van. He arrived in Lithuania four days later.

“We want to send the message that if you refuse to fly, that’s not going to stop us extraditing you,” a security source said. “It just means you’re going to have a very uncomfortable journey.”

Det Supt Michael Mullen of the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation said the operation “re-enforces the strong working relationship between An Garda Síochána and our European counterparts in ensuring fugitives are returned to the requesting state to serve justice”.

Gardaí said the man is wanted in Lithuania for “serious offences of criminal organisation, human trafficking and drug distribution and has strong links to organised crime”.

Mecius is alleged to have controlled a group of seven drug dealers who sold heroin in Waterford. On one occasion, in August 2017, he allegedly beat up one of the trafficking victims in a Waterford flat for losing a batch of heroin and disobeying orders.

He is one of 19 alleged members of the gang detained so far in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Lithuania. Similar operations were allegedly run by the gang in Cork and Belfast.

The gang was responsible for distributing “a very large quantity” of heroin, the Lithuanian prosecutor’s office said. Mecius is alleged to have been a willing member of the gang, having joined in 2013. He was arrested in 2020 and has been fighting extradition since.

The trafficking victims were described by Lithuanian authorities as being addicted to drugs or drink, recently released from prison, homeless or having little money and social relations. Once they arrived in Ireland they were dependent on the gang members as they did not speak English or have their own money. They were forced to hand over their identity documents and were subject to physical and psychological abuse, court documents allege. The money they earned from selling heroin was conveyed up the gang hierarchy before being transferred to Lithuania where it was laundered.

Lithuanian prosecutors told the High Court that they were best placed to prosecute the case as the majority of evidence has been gathered in that country and the criminal enterprise was centred there.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times