Gangs step up tactics to bring in cigarettes
CRIMINAL gangs are stepping up their efforts to import millions of euro worth of contraband cigarettes.
Illegal cigarette seizures already total €7m in the first six weeks of the year, new Revenue figures show.
This compares with €75m of smuggled cigarettes seized during 2010. The total haul was 178m cigarettes last year.
Crime gangs are believed to be behind many of the cigarette shipments with some reports suggesting drug criminals are also looking at cigarettes as more profitable because of a recessionary drop in demand for "recreational" cocaine.
Paramilitaries are also suspected of being involved in some of the major seizures of cigarettes along the border last year.
In the latest seizure, officers from Revenue's Customs Service, along with gardai from Coolock and Swords stations, seized around 6m cigarettes and two commercial vehicles in Coolock this week.
The seizure, the result of a surveillance operation, had an estimated retail value of €2.5m with a potential loss to the Exchequer of €2.1m, a Revenue spokeswoman said.
The consignment of cigarettes, which arrived into Dublin Port from China, was concealed in a shipment described as 'glasswool insulation rolls'.
The brands of cigarettes seized were Palace, Lambert & Butler, and Marlboro, she said.
The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) played a pivotal role in assisting the Revenue Commissioners in this international surveillance operation, the Revenue spokeswoman said.
"Several individuals were interviewed and investigations are ongoing both nationally and internationally," she added.
So far this year, 17.2m cigarettes with a retail value of approximately €7m have been seized by Revenue's Customs Service.
In 2010, Revenue made over 9,000 seizures of illegal cigarettes totalling 178.3m and worth €75.1m.
Customs officers also made 1,169 seizures of tobacco during the year. The 3,369 kgs of tobacco were worth €1.2m.