The biggest haul of counterfeit cigarettes in Europe may have been destined for a Dundalk based smuggler.
Officers from Revenue’s Customs Service supported by An Garda Síochána, seized over 32m cigarettes and 4,500 kgs of water pipe tobacco with a total retail value of approximately €14m at Drogheda Port last Tuesday morning.
However it is believed that cigarettes were in fact for smuggler with an operation in the Dundalk area. The smuggler, believed to be based just outside Dundalk, has attempted to bring other large shipments of counterfeit cigarettes into Ireland before.
The operation, resulting in the largest seizure of cigarettes in Europe to date this year, targeted the criminal activities of an international organised crime group headed up by Irish and UK nationals and based in Europe.
The cargo vessel transporting the cigarettes and tobacco, the MV Shingle, which was loaded in Slovenia and arrived into Drogheda Port via Lisbon, was also seized.
In a statement, Revenue said; “This seizure is significant in the fight against those engaged in the illicit cigarette and tobacco market. It is the culmination of months of dedicated work and international cooperation involving Revenue authorities and law enforcement agencies across several jurisdictions, including Slovenia, Portugal and Ireland.
“The illicit cigarette market represents a very serious fraud on the Exchequer as well as undermining health policy and funding organised crime and today’s seizure represents a major blow to those involved in this criminal activity.”
The seizure represents a potential loss to the Exchequer of nearly €13m.
This is assuming that it would have displaced the equivalent full tax paid quantity of cigarettes and tobacco.