OVER a third of the illegal cigarette seizures made in Ireland last year took place in Co Louth, according to data published by the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee (ITMAC).
Some 63.9 million illegal cigarettes were seized in the Louth area from January to December 2010, which was over a third of the total seizures of 189 million.
According to the ITMAC data, the north-east of the country topped the figures of illegal cigarette seizures in 2010.
However, ITMAC said that despite the north-east being the most active area for the illegal tobacco trade last year, there were only three prosecutions for cigarette smuggling in Louth last year.
In 2010, the average fine secured for cigarette smuggling was e519, and the average fine for the illegal sale of unstamped tobacco products was e2,500.
However, the Finance Act allows for penalties up to e126,970, for those prosecuted on indictment for cigarette smuggling or the illegal trade of tobacco.
A recent seizure saw 5 million cigarettes confiscated in Co Louth on Monday, April 18 last as part of Operation Runner. Officers from Revenue’s Customs Service seized the cigarettes with a retail value of e1.9m when they stopped and searched a truck. The cigarettes, believed to be counterfeit, were ‘Raquel’ brand, with a potential loss to the Exchequer of e1.6m.
The cigarettes were concealed in a consignment of goods described as ‘tins of baked beans’, that had arrived in Dublin Port from Belgium. The consignment travelled under surveillance, before being intercepted in Louth.
A spokesperson for ITMAC said the illegal tobacco trade in Ireland is a very real and growing problem and its inclusion in the programme for government has shown the impact it is having on the Irish economy.
In October 2009 Irish customs seized 120 million cigarettes - the largest haul of illegal cigarettes in the history of the EU at Greenore Port.