Five people have been arrested during a major police crackdown on the criminal activities of the INLA on Friday.
More than 200 police officers were involved in 12 searches across the greater Belfast area, supported by members of the National Crime Agency (NCA) AND Her Majesty’s Revenues and Customs (HMRC).
The west Belfast offices of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the political wing of the INLA, was one of the properties raided in various parts of Belfast, Lisburn, Crumlin and Newtownabbey.
Speaking at a press facility, ACC Stephen Martin said the search and arrest operation is the largest by the taskforce to date and is the result of an investigation in the group’s involvement in extortion and prostitution.
He referred to a 2015 assessment that found INLA structures remained in existence and members continued to be “heavily involved in criminality, including extortion, paramilitary style attacks and violent acts of intimidation against people allegedly involved in drug-dealing in communities”.
“These activities were assessed to have a significant and negative impact on local communities and this made the INLA a priority for the Paramilitary Crime Task Force,” ACC Martin commented.
The senior policeman appealed to business owners who believe they are being extorted to contact the Paramilitary Crime Task Force on the non-emergency number 101 .
“We want to hear from you, and as today demonstrates, where we can secure evidence of these suspected offences, we will take action,” he said.
“There has been a misconception in some quarters that the work of the Paramilitary Crime Task Force is focused only on loyalist paramilitaries. Today’s policing activity and a related operation in Derry-Londonderry in March that our work is to remove paramilitarism from all our communities across Northern Ireland.
He added: “This is a serious investigation into criminality, we are exploring allegations and suspicions of extortion of businesses, of prostitution, these are serious offences. We are not in the business of PR stunts, we’re in the business of carrying out serious criminal investigations and protecting communities.”