Two people were arrested in connection with the seizure of over 70,000 cigarettes and three kilos of hand-rolling tobacco by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on Tuesday December 16.

HMRC officers searched private and commercial premises at Ballymena and Ballymoney, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, where they seized 12,020 suspected illicit cigarettes and tobacco, plus almost £2,000 in cash.

In a separate operation, HMRC seized what are believed to be 60,000 illicit cigarettes and a vehicle in the Claudy area of County Londonderry after officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland stopped the vehicle.

Mike Parkinson, assistant director, criminal investigation, HMRC, said: “Tobacco fraud is organised crime on a global scale, encouraging and supporting criminality within our communities and robbing taxpayers of billions each year in unpaid duty and taxes.

“We urge anyone with information about the transport, storage or sale of suspected illicit tobacco to contact us on the Customs’ Hotline on 0800 595000.”

A woman from Ballymena and a man from south Armagh were interviewed by HMRC and have been released on bail. Investigations into the seizures are continuing.