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Saturday 17 March 2018

Customs in all-night stake-out

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

Customs officers manned an all-night stake-out to uncover a massive fuel laundering plant in the border counties.

Three huge production factories - one near Monaghan town which had the potential to make a record 10 million litres of fuel a year - have been discovered since the start of the year.

Josephine Feehily, chair of the Revenue Commissioners, said the finds were a credit to the diligence of her officials.

"At least one of those involved hours of staking out, all night... watching activity and following that activity to the source," she said.

Annual figures for 2010 also showed 178.4 million cigarettes and 3,367kg (7,400lb) of tobacco, valued at €75.2m and €1.2m, were seized by Customs during the year, along with drugs with a street value of €9.02m. Some €1.7m of suspected criminal cash was also detained at ports and airports.

Ms Feehily said her inspectors continued to work closely with colleagues in Northern Ireland on an all-Ireland basis to target criminals chasing a profit from smuggling illegal fuel and tobacco.

She also warned anyone buying contraband cigarettes that they were evading tax, supporting criminals and damaging their health.

"Not only is that a black economy activity, but it is also funding criminality," she added.

"If you buy contraband cigarettes you are funding criminals, you are also taking a very particular risk with your health way beyond the risk of tobacco because most of them are counterfeit and you don't know what's in them."

The Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee (ITMAC) said the Revenue Commissioners and Customs were doing an excellent job in trying to stem the tide of illegal cigarettes that is flowing into the country.

Another 36.6 million cigarettes have been seized this year, including five million on Monday.

"It is widely accepted that for every seizure that is made, nine are getting though which exemplifies the scale of the problem across the country," said a spokesman.

"Illegal cigarettes are fuelling crime and costing the Irish economy hundreds of millions of euro every year."

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