Eleven men have been arrested as part of a major police investigation into the criminal activities of loyalist paramilitaries, specifically the East Belfast UVF.
A total of 14 searches were carried across the Greater Belfast, Ards and Comber areas on Friday.
Those arrested range in age from 22 to 48 and they all remain in custody for questioning.
PSNI Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton, from the Paramilitary Crime Task Force, said a number of seizures had also been made:
- £15,000 of suspected Class A drugs
- high-value vehicles
- high-end jewellery
- clothing and accessories
- significant quantity of cash
DS Singleton said: “East Belfast UVF have been a priority for the Paramilitary Crime Task Force since its inception, owing to the breadth and scale of criminality and the violence against and coercion of the community that goes hand in hand with it.
“Paramilitaries claim to protect local people, but in reality, they exploit them by supplying illegal drugs and using violence to try and control their markets.
“Working with our partners and communities, we are determined to rid our communities of these parasites.”
DS Singleton added that the investigation has been ongoing for some time and that Friday’s developments would “likely lead to further action” by the task force.
“Today’s operation demonstrates what we can do when we have information about the activities of these groups.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those that are standing up to paramilitaries across Northern Ireland - your courage is an inspiration to us all, thank you.
“Anyone with any information, no matter how trivial they may think it is, should bring that to police or to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”