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Seven held as eight million cigarettes seized

Seven men were arrested after eight million counterfeit cigarettes were seized near the Irish border today.

The tobacco, worth an estimated £2.4m (€2.85m), was discovered hidden in a shipment of under-floor heating pipes. Five of the men are from Co Louth, one from Co Limerick and one from Co Armagh.

The cigarettes, thought to have originated in China, were recovered inside a 40ft container in Forkhill, south Armagh where commercial premises were raided by customers officers and police.

John Whiting, assistant director of criminal investigation with HM Revenue and Customs, said: "Tobacco smuggling is organised crime on a global scale with huge profits ploughed straight back into the criminal underworld, feeding activities like drug dealing, people smuggling and fraud.

"Purchasing cheap cigarettes without the duty paid on them means trading with criminals, and undermining honest businesses. With expertly crafted packaging it is almost impossible to spot fake cigarettes, but like any other counterfeit product, you have no idea exactly what you're buying.

"We will continue to work with our partners in the Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF) and the Revenue Commissioners in the Republic of Ireland and we are committed to stamping out the problem of cigarette and tobacco smuggling.

"This criminal activity undermines public health by creating a cheap and unregulated supply."

PA Media