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Port swoop finds eight million cigs

EIGHT million cigarettes worth €3.1m have been recovered in Revenue's first major seizure of 2010.

They were discovered yesterday in a lorry marked 'heaters', that arrived in Dublin Port from the United Arab Emirates.

It represented a potential loss of €2.7m to the Exchequer.

The truck was seized and several people have been interviewed but no arrests have yet been made.

A Revenue spokesman said investigations were continuing into the seizure of Palace branded cigarettes.

The investigations are running nationally and internationally.

The Government believes that one in five cigarettes smoked here is bought illegally after being smuggled into the country.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan opted not to increase duties in the recent Budget, with smuggling cited as the cause.

In 2009, 215 million cigarettes worth €90m were recovered, with one 120 million seizure being the biggest in EU history.

The seizures saved the Exchequer €72m in potential lost revenue.

The 2009 confiscations marked a substantial rise in the volume of cigarettes recovered last year, compared with 135 million in 2008.





TACKLE

Meanwhile, recent figures show that by November 20 customs and gardai had made 2,630 seizures of cigarettes, and a further 157 seizures of other tobacco products.

The systems in place to tackle cigarette smuggling involve a combination of cargo and passenger profiling, intelligence gathering and mutual assistance co-operation with other Customs services.

Where appropriate, X-ray scanning technology is used to detect and seize contraband in maritime and air transport.

A second mobile scanner has recently been purchased by the Department of Justice to help with this operation.

Mr Lenihan said Operation Downstream, which targets retail outlets and markets, has provided good results since its conception in December 2007.

The operation focuses on seizing illicit cigarettes that evaded detection at the point of importation.

In a parallel ongoing operation targeting cigarette packs bearing counterfeit tax stamps, checks have been made at more than 200 retain stores in the Dublin region during 2009.

This operation was instigated following the detection of bogus Irish tobacco stamps on counterfeit cigarettes smuggled from China.

kdoyle@herald.ie


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