€16m worth of IRA cigarettes seized by Customs last week
CUSTOMS officers yesterday seized 3.5 million cigarettes at Rosslare Port, adding to the haul of 38 million seized in Dublin Port on Thursday.
The Romanian driver of the Irish registered truck, which is owned by an Irish-based haulage company, was last night being interviewed.
In total, these 41.5 million cigarettes have a potential street value of over €16m. Industry sources estimate that 20 per cent of the cigarette trade in the Republic is now illicit.
IRA smugglers who were formerly based around the Border are believed to be behind the huge hauls. The gangs are also becoming European leaders in illicit fuel laundering, say Customs officials.
UK Customs have been in contact with their Irish counterparts over the past year as part of investigations into the spread of the fuel laundering empire to England and continental Europe.
Fuel launderers have been detected operating in Spain and the Czech Republic so far, according to sources.
Cigarettes, tobacco and diesel smuggling are all under the control of the former Provisional IRA's south Armagh brigade.
Nine fuel-laundering factories were located by Customs here last year and 27 in Northern Ireland. Gardai and Customs also estimate that the south Armagh republicans directly control around 100 retail outlets in the Republic.
The factories leave toxic chemical run-offs, which destroy agricultural land.
While fuel is their core business (buying diesel at around 80c and selling it for around €1.50) cigarettes are a more profitable sideline.
A container of cigarettes can be bought and shipped for €300,000 from China and the Far East and can generate sales of around €5m.