Cigarettes have become the most lucrative smuggling avenue for many criminal gangs, retailers claimed last night after another major seizure by Customs officers at Dublin Port.
The latest haul was concealed in a shipment of industrial paper reels and was discovered by officers yesterday when the consignment from Rotterdam was going from a routine check.
A UK-registered commercial vehicle and trailer were also seized and the driver was interviewed by officers.
The haul of 5.3 million cigarettes has a retail value of about €2m and represents a potential loss to the Exchequer of €1.8m.
The shipment brings the number of cigarettes seized by Customs so far this year to 55.7 million, with an estimated retail value of €24m.
A Revenue spokeswoman warned the public that anyone tempted to purchase cheap cigarettes from an irregular source of supply was chancing the possibility of buying counterfeit goods, which provided an unknown set of health risks.
This also took much needed funds from the Exchequer, hurt legitimate trade and funded criminal activity, she added.
Retailers Against Smuggling spokesman Benny Gilsenan said the haul showed that contraband cigarettes were big business for criminals and quite often their most lucrative activity.
He said it illustrated that it was time for the Government to consider the introduction of a minimum fine for smuggling.
"Some gangs are making €3m a week from this crime and the current level of fines they receive on conviction is meaningless," he said.