A new, third-generation container X-ray scanner has been unveiled by Revenue as part of its hi-tech battle against smuggling and organised crime.
The Chinese-built mobile scanner is the third such tool owned by Revenue — they also have scanners bought in 2004 and 2009.
Revenue chairman Niall Cody said the €1.67m device, built by Chinese company, Nuctech, is the “most powerful and sophisticated” mobile container scanner available.
Mr Cody said smuggling is a growing challenge, because gangs are becoming “increasingly sophisticated” and are using more “elaborate concealment techniques”.
The cost of the scanner was part-funded by a €750,000 grant from the EU anti-fraud office, Olaf, which was represented at yesterday afternoon’s launch at Dublin Port.
There were 1.5m freight movements at Dublin Port last year, involving 33m tonnes of goods. Container traffic was predicted to rise by 6% this year, with the scale of the forthcoming Brexit creating further, “uncertain challenges” for customs here.
Mr Cody said that while container cargo movement is the lifeblood of legitimate business and the freight industry, it also feeds the “supply chain to the shadow economy”, including the illicit tobacco and drugs markets.
He said the EU Drugs Markets Report 2016 estimated that European citizens spend at least €24bn on illicit substances every year.
In what is thought to have been Ireland’s biggest inland drug haul, Revenue and gardaí seized 1.8 tonnes of herbal cannabis, with an estimated street value of €37m, in Dublin last January.
Revenue seized 1,680kg of drugs in 2016, worth €30.5m, in 6,000 seizures. This total involved 941kg of cannabis (herb and resin), 565kg of amphetamine and ecstasy, and 172kg of cocaine and heroin.
This compared to 1,400kg of drugs in 2015, worth €23m, in 4,800 seizures. That comprised 626kg of cannabis, 656kg of amphetamine and ecstasy, and 95kgs of heroin and cocaine.
Revenue confiscated 45m smuggled cigarettes (worth €23.5m) in 2016, compared to 68m cigarettes (worth €34m) in 2015.
Mr Cody said: “As global trade volumes continue to grow every year, Revenue’s objective is to target and confront shadow economy activity, fuel fraud, tobacco, cash and drug smuggling, while, at the same, time facilitating the free flow of legitimate trade.
“This is made more and more challenging, as smugglers become increasingly agile and sophisticated in their methods and use increasingly elaborate concealment techniques.”
The launch also heard that the 20 Revenue detector dogs had helped seize €79m worth of tobacco, drugs, and cash in the last four years.
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