Two men ended up in police custody in Limerick after they were caught digging up over $1.5million in cash in a field outside the city.

One man was released without charge on Monday morning but the second, a 53-year-old, remained in custody after the bizarre episode.

The money had been buried in a washing machine in a field at Portcrusha, Montpelier, on the outskirts of the city. A JCB digger was used to retrieve the buried cash.

The Irish Sun newspaper reports that police believe the huge sum of cash is the proceeds of criminal activity.

It was seized after a five month long surveillance operation by police.

Officers believe the huge haul is the biggest sum of cash ever seized on one operation by Irish police.

A police source told the paper: “The 53-year-old is a known criminal from the north side of Limerick city.

“He was digging up the cash and putting it into a container on the farmland. It is understood the other man arrested has no links to crime.

“There are two detectives working in eight-hour shifts counting the cash.

“The entire amount has still not been counted. It is well in excess of €1million, though.

“Police want the location of where the cash is being counted to remain unknown. They have to catalogue every note, photograph each bundle, and then count it.”

A spokesman said the arrests were made during a search of a property near Castleconnell by officers from the Divisional Drugs and Crime Units.

He confirmed the raid had been planned as part of an “ongoing investigation into organised criminal activity”.