| 10.2°C Dublin

Russians in on cigarette scams

Ireland's organised crime gangs have joined forces with Russian criminals to flood the country with counterfeit cigarettes, it has been claimed.

Illegal cigarettes smuggled from China, the Middle East and countries bordering the EU account for about a fifth of tobacco smoked in the country.

The black market industry is costing the Irish economy e250m in lost revenue each year.

The head of an EU task force on tobacco smuggling revealed it was a significant problem in Ireland, with criminals importing small amounts frequently.

But Austin Rowan, of the European Commission's Anti-Fraud Office, said there was no proof Ireland was a gateway for smuggling cigarettes from China to mainland Europe.

He revealed several eastern European-led gangs, particularly from Russia, were working in co-operation with gangs in Ireland.