|Men caught digging drugs up from field.|
A convicted drug dealer was caught red-handed by police as he flicked through money he had just removed from a field.
Elite gardai found the 53 year-old trying to dry the notes in a tumble dryer after using a mechanical digger to take them out from their hiding place six feet below a field near Castleconnell in Limerick.
The cabin the man was found operating in had drying and packaging equipment, although police are unsure how long the sum of money – which amounted to €1.25m ($1.72m) – had remained under the soil.
The sting followed a major drugs surveillance operation which resulted in the arrest of another accomplice, who was found close to the site of the heist.
The two, who are in their 40s and 50s, were being held under money laundering and terrorism legislation at Henry Street garda station in Limerick; one has since been released.
A garda source told the Belfast Telegraph that police believed the operation was long premeditated adding that the field was probably "the most valuable" in the country for a long time.
Police spent two days trying to count the cash, some of which was also found in a container on the farmland. Much of the money was saturated as a result of being under the ground for such a long time.
The find was the culmination of a major five-month police operation into the drug supply in the Limerick area that saw cooperation between a major drug-fighting unit and local drugs police.
The criminal had previously been sentenced to six years in prison after being caught with 14 kilograms of marijuana in Limerick city in 2000.
The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), which is charged with investigating and seizing the proceeds of crime, has said that it will attempt to claim the sum if enough evidence can be gathered to prove the case.