Figures show huge rise in seizures of cocaine, heroin, cigarettes and illegal alcohol last year

There was a surge last year in the amount of cocaine, heroin, cigarettes and illegal alcohol seized by Customs.

Revenue's annual report for 2018 said it uncovered the first counterfeit cigarette factory in the State last year – in which over 23m cigarettes and 71 tonnes of tobacco were seized.

Revenue figures show that 195kgs of cocaine and heroin were seized in 2018, compared to 27kgs in 2017 – with the street value increasing from €2.2m to almost €17m.

There was a rise in the seizure of amphetamines, ecstasy and other substances – from 565kgs (€2.9m) to 1.28 tonnes (€7.6m).

But there was a major drop in the quantity of cannabis seized – down from 3.1 tonnes to 512kgs.

This meant the overall amount of drugs seized fell from 3.7 tonnes in 2017 to 1.99 tonnes in 2018, with the overall value down from almost €60 million to €33.5m.

Seizures in individual years can be skewed by very large, or even freak, seizures. The number of seizures is often seen as a better indicator, with a total of 7,174 drug seizures in 2018, compared to 6,064 in 2017.

Heroin seized in Kilkenny last October.

The figures also show a significant rise in the quantity of smuggled or illicit cigarettes, from 34m in 2017 to almost 68m in 2018, with the value increasing from €19m to €41m.

In March 2018, Revenue and other agencies seized 23m cigarettes (and 71 tonnes of tobacco) from the country's first counterfeit cigarette factory in Jenkinstown, Co Louth.

Revenue estimated the factory was capable of producing a further 71m cigarettes. The finished and potential product had a potential value of almost €50m.

The report said there was an increase in the number of larger seizures of illicit alcohol at the main ports, with the amount being seized jumping by 165%, from 95,000 litres in 2017 to over 252,000 litres in 2018.

One of the 32 joint operations with the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau was a cross-border investigation involving the British National Crime Agency and the PSNI.

The operation, codenamed Skunk Tank, resulted in the seizure of 66kgs of cannabis resin at Dublin Port and the related arrest of five people in Northern Ireland.

There were 450 detections of suspected counterfeit goods worth more than €3m, most of them consigned from China or Turkey.

There were 78 cash seizures (value €1m) in 2018, relating to cash suspected of being the proceeds of, or intended for use in, criminal activity.

There were just under 24,000 suspicious transactions reports from financial institutions and other bodies under anti-money laundering legislation.

The report said evidence indicated its measures to combat fuel laundering had been “very effective”.

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