Smugglingblitz takes 14 million cigarettes off streets
A NATIONWIDE two-week blitz by Revenue officers combating smugglers has resulted in the seizure of almost 14 million cigarettes and 195kg of tobacco.
Officers targeted more than 1,700 flights, raided over 1,000 shops and 43 street markets and scanned 180 shipping containers in the massive operation.
Four arrests were made and two people are still in custody while a total of 73 prosecutions are pending.
Ten vehicles, 207 litres of vodka and €218,000 in cash were also confiscated.
Revenue commissioner Liam Irwin yesterday said the seizures also expanded the office's intelligence on those involved in the smuggling.
More than 250 officers were involved in the blitz, which ended at the weekend and covered every county.
Some of the larger markets were checked out three times over the course of the fortnight.
Officers made a dozen seizures from the markets, confiscating about 37,000 cigarettes. The overall haul of 13,719,472 cigarettes is valued at €5.8m while the tobacco is estimated at €70,000.
The results of the blitz were disclosed yesterday as the Revenue announced it had set up a confidential freephone number (1800 295 295) for the public.
"Anyone tempted to buy cheap cigarettes from an irregular source of supply must realise there is a high possibility they are buying counterfeit goods, which provide an unknown additional set of health risks as the product is not the subject of quality control," Mr Irwin said.
He emphasised the illegal packets were not only robbing the exchequer of badly needed funds and hurting local businesses but were also putting money into the hands of criminals.
Revenue detection levels are well up this year and the number of serious prosecutions in the courts is also on the increase.
In the first six months of the year, officers seized 113 million cigarettes and 1,806kg of tobacco, with a combined value of €48.8m.
This compared with statistics for all of last year totalling 218m cigarettes (including one haul of 120m at Greenore, Co Louth) and 10,450kg of tobacco, with a combined value of €95m.