Two Polish nationals arrested in a massive €1.2 million cannabis bust are suspected of operating one of the most sophisticated drug-growing operations gardai have seen.
The pair, who are in their 40s, were arrested on Wednesday at a grow house in a remote area of Holyford, Co Tipperary.
Senior sources have revealed that the property was specifically bought earlier this year by a criminal gang to be used to grow cannabis.
"Everything about this operation was extremely professional, [and that] included the gang using their own electricians and organising separate water sources as part of the cultivation operation," a source told the Herald.
"Gardai believe this gang is supplying cannabis on a national level. It is one of the bigger drugs operations uncovered this year. This is a gang who identified a very rural location in relation to very lucrative criminal activities."
The €1.2 million bust happened as part of a four-day drugs operation under Operation Overwatch and was carried out across the Tipperary Garda Division all week.
"Gardai from the Tipperary Divisional Drugs Unit together with detective, uniform, community gardai - including gardai from the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau and Garda Dog Unit - took part in a number of planned drugs operations which saw approximately €1.2 million in controlled drugs seized," a garda spokesman said.
"As part of this operation, 26 locations were searched across the division, with nine suspects arrested for possession of drugs for sale and supply, which also includes 11 detections for simple possession."
Gardai are becoming increasingly concerned about the activities of eastern European gangs in illegal drugs cultivation.
It has emerged that there was a 200pc increase in the activity between the second quarter of 2015 and this year in the Midlands region. Growhouse arrests in the Midlands increased from one in the second quarter of 2015 up to three in the same quarter this year.
This week's operation is the most significant since gardai seized cannabis plants worth €150,000 in Co Westmeath on September 1 during a search of a rural dwelling in Moate. Gardai described the grow house as sophisticated. Two women were arrested in connection with the find.
Apart from Eastern European gangs, Asian gangs have also been heavily involved in cannabis cultivation here.
Over recent years, a massive garda investigation codenamed Operation Wireless has focused attention on the role Triad gangs have in the cultivation of cannabis in growhouses.