PIRA figures are 'involved in human trafficking operation'
Provisional IRA figures are involved in a major human trafficking operation with eastern European gangsters, the Irish Independent has learned.
The PSNI has uncovered the racket in a series of raids since last month when 21 trafficked men and women were discovered "working in the agricultural sector in south Armagh", the PSNI said in a statement.
The PSNI has carried out a series of raids on farms where they say migrants have been working for less than minimum wage.
They also raided a premises closely associated with the leadership of the Provisional IRA in south Armagh.
After that raid, local sources said, both Provos and Eastern European gangsters arrived at the premises in luxury cars with darkened windows.
Another location raided by the PSNI is understood to belong to a senior republican figure in south Armagh.
The PSNI has not named the Provisional IRA as being involved in the people-smuggling operations but police sources have confirmed this is the case.
It is understood the Provos have had links with the Eastern European gangs for years, using their drivers in their fuel and smuggling operations.
Several have been arrested and charged.
Almost every cigarette consignment intercepted by gardaí and customs in the north east in recent years has involved the arrest of migrant labourers, all from Eastern Europe.
No one has been charged in connection with the human trafficking operations but one man was arrested by the PSNI yesterday and is being questioned.
The 33-year-old was detained by detectives from the Serious Crime Branch on Tuesday and is said to be assisting with their enquiries.
A spokesman added: "The male has been arrested on suspicion of Human Trafficking for Securing Services between January 1, 2015 and July 17, 2015, a number of fraud offences, money laundering and gangmaster offences. He is currently assisting detectives with enquiries."
The arrest comes after 16 people were rescued last month during what was described as a "multi-agency, PSNI-led operation against human trafficking for labour exploitation".
The PSNI said the victims had been "working in the agricultural sector in south Armagh".
Garda sources said the Eastern European gangsters have become well established in the Border area in recent years and are involved in a variety of criminal endeavours, including the extortion of money from honest Eastern Europeans who have set up their own businesses.
Garda and PSNI sources have said that there is now a "corridor of lawlessness" along the Border due to cuts in policing resources on both sides.