Smugglers saw millions of their anticipated profits go up in smoke last year after Revenue officials seized 68m illegal cigarettes.

The haul makes up 3.4m packets — enough to keep almost 10,000 20-a-day smokers going for a year — and was in addition to 2,364kg of loose tobacco also seized at ports, in post, and in warehouses.

Revenue put a value on the seized goods of €35.5m up from the €25.5m worth of similar products taken out of circulation in 2014.

Some of the biggest single seizures included finds of 10.3m and 9m cigarettes discovered in containers at Dublin Port in shipments from Belgium and Holland — one described on import forms as breakfast cereal and the other supposedly being vacuum cleaners.

Some were counterfeit selling as big brand names while others were genuine brands made and sold in eastern Europe where prices are a third of the cost of brands sold legally here.

In other activities outlined by Revenue in its preliminary report for 2015, officials also seized 1,377kg of drugs valued at €23m — down on the previous year’s €91m haul. A total of €45.6bn in taxes was collected for the Exchequer. That figure is up 10.5% on 2014. Prosecutions for serious tax evasion and fraud saw 27 convictions, while there were 2,063 convictions for minor offences.

A total of €76.95m was collected in taxes, interest and penalties from individuals pursued for failure to file or under-declaring liabilities.

Revenue has a new tool at its disposal for identifying tax evaders as banks begin collecting details of non-resident bank account holders.

Under the international agreement, Revenue will also receive reciprocal data from other countries about Irish residents with accounts abroad. Revenue said the new information would enable it “to verify tax returns and to target and confront taxpayers that are non-compliant”.


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