Three arrests, cash seized after major searches linked to UVF activity

Contraband cigarettes and an imitation firearm were also seized

Three arrests, cash seized after major searches linked to UVF activity

Cash seized during PSNI operations | Image: PSNI

PSNI officers have carried out 14 searches in the Belfast and Newtownabbey areas over the past two days in relation to criminal activity linked to the UVF in north Belfast.

Three people were arrested under the Terrorism Act during the searches, which took place in residential and commercial properties.

On Monday, a 56-year-old woman and a 39-year-old man were arrested in Newtownabbey on suspicion of terrorism offences.

The man was also arrested on suspicion of being a member of a proscribed organisation, namely the UVF.

A 56-year-old man was also arrested in north Belfast on Monday on suspicion of terrorism offences.

They are all currently being questioned at a Serious Crime Suite in Musgrave.

Seven properties were searched on Monday and a further six were searched on Tuesday.

 Image: PSNI

During the searches, officers seized approximately stg£32,000 of cash, around 9,000 contraband cigarettes, an imitation firearm and money lending ledgers.

 Images: PSNI

UVF paraphernalia was also seized - including flags, fleeces, a belt buckle and ties, computers and mobile phones.

Police also confiscated furniture, three vehicles and 24 airsoft rifles.

 Image: PSNI

Detective Inspector Heather Whoriskey said: "This two-day operation, involving around 100 officers, demonstrates the PSNI's commitment to tackling all types of criminality linked to paramilitaries."

"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.

"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."

“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."

"I understand that people feel afraid to speak out against these paramilitaries, but police need information from local people - as we will act on information we receive."