Gardai at the scene in Jenkinstown on Thursday. (Pic: @ZaraKing Twitter)
Revenue and customs officers remain on site at the scene of a large scale illegal cigarette factory Jenkinstown this morning, after a huge production operation was raided on Thursday.
On Friday morning, 11 Eastern European nationals aged in their 20s and 50s were arrested after Gardai and Revenue officers raided the North Louth premises.
Revenue officers found more than 40 tonnes of tobacco, all the pre-cursor components for the manufacture of cigarettes, and approximately 25 million cigarettes, branded “Mayfair”, ready for distribution. It is thought the estimated loss to the Exchequer would have been approximately €12 million had the products made it to market.
Speaking to LMFM's The Michael Reade Show on Friday morning, Revenue's Head of Central Investigations for Tax and Customs Michael Gilligan confirmed officers were still in the process of removing products from the location.
It is understood the cigarettes were set to be transported to the UK for distribution and sale.
Speaking on Thursday, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan praised those responsible for the raid. "I commend the excellent work of the Gardaí and other State agencies in relation to the illegal cigarette production operation in Jenkinstown, Co Louth this morning.
"A very substantial amount of cigarettes and tobacco have been seized, and 11 arrests have been made. This operation clearly demonstrates the benefits of the close working relationship between An Garda Síochána, Revenue, Customs officials and the PSNI in tackling this type of fraudulent activity," he said.
"Highly trained Armed Support Units also attended the scene and I thank them for their ongoing efforts to disrupt all forms of serious crime."
Fergus O'Dowd TD for Louth described the find as "very worrying" adding, "I hope that this operation will curtail the influx of illegal tobacco in the North East and further a field."
Declan Breathnach TD said such operations were seriously hurting retailers "at a time when legal retailers are selling plain pack cigarettes."
"Revenue has estimated the loss to the Exchequer would have been €12m if these cigarettes were sold. This is not the first time that illegal cigarettes from this source have been seized both here and in the UK," he said.
"This highlights the growing market for cheap illicit tobacco products. I would like to thank An Garda Síochána and Revenue and their Customs Officials for all their hard work in the continuing struggle to stamp out illegal smuggling and trading.
"We need to protect the legitimate small retailers as much as possible from impact that smuggled alcohol, tobacco products and solid fuel has on their businesses” concluded Breathnach.