Over the past three months, Revenue Customs at Cork Airport has seized almost 200,000 cigarettes valued at €86,531, half of which were confiscated during a week-long operation focused on the illegal trade.
During the same period, customs officials have also confiscated 2.3kg of illegal drugs, including 1.1kg of cannabis found to have been swallowed by two individuals. Weapons, including revolvers and a hunting knife, were also seized.
Tobacco smuggling has now become a major focus for Irish Customs, with recent research showing that one in four cigarettes smoked in the country has not had duty paid.
Ireland tops the list of countries in the EU for the consumption of non-duty paid tobacco, along with also having the highest price for legitimate tobacco products in the EU.
“There is no doubt that Ireland is a target for international crime gangs and that the money they make from illegal tobacco is funding high-level criminal activities in Ireland and abroad,” said a Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee spokesman.
“Not only are the Government losing hundreds of millions a year, but they are helping to furnish criminal gangs with €3m per week from illegal tobacco.”
Seizures of undeclared cash have also become a regular feature in the work of Customs during recent years.
“There has been a very big increase in people attempting to bring cash out of the country over the past five years,” said Joe Martin Sullivan, Customs enforcement manager at Cork Airport.
More than €10m has been confiscated at ports and airports around the country since 2005, and continues to be an ongoing focus of the authority’s attention. With any amount over €6,384 needing documentary proof of its legality, criminal gangs employ a technique called ‘smurfing’ — where two or more cash couriers travel on the same flight with amounts just below the legal threshold.
“Much of our prevention work results from good working relationships with our fellow customs agencies in other countries,” says Mr Sullivan. “The use of profiling and risk analysis techniques help us to identify suspicious movements of individuals who may be of interest in this regard.”
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