Eight million smuggled cigarettes seized in cross-border operation

16.5% of all cigarettes consumed in 2015 were illiegal

Irish gang are believed to have worked with Dutch criminals to smuggle the tobacco by truck from Germany to Ireland where it was to be sold on the black market

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2 June 2020 | 0

Eight million smuggled cigarettes, alongside tobacco, vehicles and equipment, were seized during a cross-border operation between An Garda Siochana and the PSNI at the weekend.

Three men, aged 34, 37 and 55, are currently in custody following the seizure, including a convicted cigarette smuggler. The PSNI arrested them in Newry, Co. Armagh on Saturday.

One of the men is a Louth criminal, who according to a garda source, is suspected of running a major smuggling operation, said to achieve “several million a year” in turnover. Wexford Circuit Court previously convicted him for smuggling nearly €60,000 worth of tobacco into Ireland.

The raids followed weeks of surveillance of the gang, which is connected to criminal groups in a number of different European countries.

Searches were carried on either side of the border. Seven happened in the south – in the Carlingford area of County Louth by gardai and Revenue – who were assisting the PSNI and HM Revenue and Customs.

During the searches, vehicles, €100,000 in cash and 2.5 tonnes of raw tobacco were seized. The latter had an estimated value of €1.55 million, worth a potential loss of €1.24 million to the Exchequer.

What’s more, 1,900kg of hand-rolling tobacco was lifted, which was packaged for sale with a value of €1.2 million, representing a potential loss to the Exchequer of almost €947,500.

Equipment for manufacturing tobacco products and mobile fuel-laundering machinery, concealed in an articulated lorry, was also seized.

The cigarettes seized in Northern Ireland would have cost the UK treasury approximately £8 million (€8.9 million) in lost revenue.

It is believed the Irish gang worked with Dutch criminals to smuggle the tobacco by truck from Germany to Ireland where it was to be sold on the black market on both sides of the border.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan praised the work of both police forces in the Joint Agency Task Force.

“The seizures in Armagh and Louth – including 8 million cigarettes, tobacco products to the value of over €2.7 million as well as fuel-laundering machinery and cash – represent a significant success for law enforcement on both sides of the border and I offer my thanks and congratulations to all those involved,” Minister Flanagan said.

Welcoming this “successful large scale cooperation”, Minister Flanagan said he had observed “unprecedented levels of cooperation between law enforcement agencies North and South, in tackling cross-border crime of all types”.

 

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