Three criminal brothers were among six men who were still being questioned last night by gardai about the manufacture of drugs.
The arrests were made as part of a massive investigation by detectives based in the south east that has been continuing for almost 18 months, leading to the seizure of a number of tablet-making machines.
The gang involved in the supply network are mainly based in Kilkenny city, but sources have revealed that they have been making “huge money” because their business is on a nationwide scale.
Sources say that the scale of the gang’s activities can be seen in the fact that gardai who have been targeting them have seized pill-making machines in Tipperary, Limerick, Kilkenny, Galway and Roscommon.
Armed officers were involved in dawn raids yesterday in counties Kilkenny, Carlow and Waterford.
It has emerged that, of the six men who were detained, four had previously been arrested as part of the hugely-detailed investigation.
Gardai first became aware of the gang’s activities in September last year when they discovered a tablet-making machine at an address in Co Tipperary after a landlord who was evicting tenants for not paying their rent came across it.
Specialists analysed the machine and investigations led them to a Kilkenny-based criminal gang led by four brothers, three of whom were being questioned last night.
“An unusual aspect of this is that it became apparent that these fellas were involved in selling both controlled drugs and non-controlled drugs,” a senior source said.
In relation to non-controlled drugs, it has emerged that the gang have been manufacturing tablets which “mimic” the effects of ecstasy without actually containing traditional ingredients which are found in real ecstasy.
Gardai have established that the gang have been importing ingredients which are not illegal called zopiclone and phenazepam to make the tablets.