PSNI raid 14 addresses as part of major crackdown on Belfast UVF

Updated: 

Police have launched a major blitz on Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) criminality in Belfast.

Fourteen searches of homes and businesses found large amounts of cash, contraband cigarettes, an imitation firearm and money lending ledgers.

UVF paraphernalia including flags, fleeces, belt buckle and ties, computers and mobile phones were also seized, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) added.

UVF contraband
Searches of homes and businesses found UVF paraphernalia, large amounts of cash, contraband cigarettes, an imitation firearm and money lending ledgers (PSNI/PA)

Around 100 officers were involved in an operation which produced three arrests.

Detective Inspector Heather Whoriskey said: "These people target the most vulnerable members of their communities - people who are struggling to make ends meet or perhaps those who have an addiction and need help.

"The stark reality is that they are not helping but instead exerting control and fear over them."

UVF paraphernalia
(PSNI/PA)

The two-day operation was part of investigations into criminal activity linked to the North Belfast UVF, police said.

On Monday, a 56-year-old woman and a 39-year-old man were arrested in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, on suspicion of terrorism offences. The man was also arrested on suspicion of being a member of the outlawed UVF.

A 56-year-old man was arrested in North Belfast on Monday suspected of terrorism offences.

Money
large amounts of cash was found in the properties (PSNI/PA)

They are being questioned at Musgrave Serious Crime Suite in the city centre.

DI Whoriskey said officers seized approximately £32,000 of cash and around 9,000 contraband cigarettes.

Detectives also confiscated furniture, three vehicles and 24 airsoft rifles under legislation targeting the proceeds of crime.

The senior detective added: "While these searches and arrests focused specifically on the North Belfast UVF, we will continue to target all paramilitary groups and disrupt their illegal activities which only serve to blight the communities they operate in.

PSNI operation into criminal activity linked to North Belfast UVF - https://t.co/4MuUpuBr15

-- PSNI (@PoliceServiceNI) September 12, 2017

"This is why we are committed to disrupting these types of criminal activities - including money lending, drugs and firearms offences, selling counterfeit goods as well as paramilitary style attacks - and the paramilitaries behind them.

"These criminals are a blight on society and the communities they exert their control over. We are working hard to rid our communities of the paramilitary groupings but we need your help."

She appealed for anyone with information to contact police.