REVENUE officials have claimed a significant victory in the battle against illegally imported cigarettes following the seizure of 200,000 cigarettes in North Cork.
The boxes of unstamped MG cigarettes were discovered in the back of a Ford Transit van that was stopped by Revenue officers assisted by the Garda Armed Response Unit north of Rathduff on the N20 Cork-Mallow Road at 8.30am last Friday morning.
The seizure was apart of an intelligence driven operation, codenamed 'Operation Claus', which had been initiated in Cork over the recent festive period in a bid to stem the flow of illegal cigarettes entering the country.
The haul had a street value of €94,000 and represented a potential loss to the Exchequer of €75,000.
"Three Irish males, one in his 30s and two in their 40s, who are well known to customs and the gardai, were detained and questioned following the seizure," a Revenue spokesman told The Corkman.
Files in relation to the seizure were being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions. Under current legislation the three men could face a maximum fine of €126,000 and/or five years in jail upon conviction in the circuit court.
The spokesman said the cigarettes may have originated in the Canary Islands.
"Cigarette smuggling is a massive problem that costs the Exchequer in the region of €750 million each year in lost revenue. This is money that could be spent on essential services," he said.
In follow up searches in North Cork and Youghal, officials also seized what the spokesman described as a "small quantity" of unstamped Golden Virginia tobacco.