Three men have been arrested and eight million suspected illicit cigarettes seized during a Joint Agency Task Force (JATF) operation in Co Armagh, Northern Ireland.
Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) attended a property in Newry on May 30 along with colleagues from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
HMRC made the arrests at the scene and seized eight million cigarettes. The suspected illicit tobacco products are worth an estimated £3m in lost duty and taxes.
A heavy goods vehicle and its refrigerated unit, a van and a fork lift truck were also seized along with approximately £12,000 and €2,000.
The operation led to a further eight searches across the border in the Republic of Ireland carried out by the JATF’s Revenue Commissioners and An Garda Síochána, with almost €100,000 euros, thousands of duty stamps and approximately two and a half tonnes of hand rolling tobacco being confiscated.
Steve Tracey, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “HMRC and our partner agencies are continuing to work together and are prepared to deploy where necessary to disrupt and dismantle the illicit trade of tobacco and other forms of criminality.
“Multi-agency investigations mounted by the Joint Agency Task Force show what can be achieved by our ongoing cross-jurisdictional cooperation to tackle criminality.
“Our collaboration, even during a global pandemic, demonstrates that we are committed to working with each other, at every level and in every location to tackle organised crime on a cross border basis. As we did today, we will take all measures necessary to ensure we can continue to carry out this important work successfully.”
Detective Superintendent Rowan Moore, from PSNI’s Criminal Investigation Branch, said: “We are committed to working alongside our partner agencies to combat the illicit trade of illegal tobacco and put those who seek to profit from criminality before the courts.
“Those trading in illicit cigarettes may be funding terrorism and criminality which brings misery and harm to local communities and today’s action sends a powerful message to those engaged in this type of criminality.”
John O’Reilly, Revenue Commissioners’ Investigation and Prosecution Division, said: “As part of the operation, Revenue Commissioners along with An Garda Síochána carried out a number of searches in the area of Carlingford, Co Louth.
“Revenue is determined and resolute in its own efforts and in collaboration with An Garda Síochána to tackle all forms of smuggling and illicit activity in relation to tobacco and other products.”
An Garda Síochána’s detective superintendent Alan Cunningham, North Western Region, said: “Through the Joint Agency Task Force, Gardaí along with other agencies will continue to focus on organised crime groups involved in the illegal manufacture and distribution of tobacco as it is used as a source of funding to support dissident republican activities.”