The seizure in Co Louth has dealt a heavy financial blow to a criminal gang, with the haul estimated to have a street value of over €4m.
The operation, targeting the illegal importation of contraband products, was conducted by the Garda Organised Crime Unit, the Criminal Assets Bureau, and Revenue’s Customs Service.
A Garda spokesman said the multi-agency force stopped a truck and a jeep at a service station near Castlebellingham on the M1.
“During the course of the search approximately 9m illegal cigarettes were seized,” said the garda spokesman. “This seizure has an estimated potential loss to revenue of €3.7m and estimated street value of €4.3m.”
He said four men, aged 36, 38, 39, and 44, were arrested at the scene and taken to Drogheda and Dundalk garda stations for questioning. They were detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, allowing for up to 24 hours’ detention.
Follow-up searches were conducted at a number of business premises and private residences.
A Revenue spokesman said the haul arrived into the State through Dublin Port from Malaysia.
“This seizure is part of Revenue’s ongoing operations targeting the supply and sale of illegal cigarettes in the shadow economy and brings to approximately 35m the number of cigarettes seized by Revenue to date this year,” said the Revenue source.
“If businesses or members of the public have any information regarding the smuggling or sale of illegal cigarettes or tobacco, they can contact Revenue in confidence on free phone number 1800 295 295.”
A lobby group for the tobacco industry welcomed the seizure.
“This again shows the great work being done by Customs in trying to curb the illicit trade in Ireland, but it also highlights the fact that this problem has not gone away,” said a spokesman for the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee.
“Internationally, we are still viewed as a soft touch in relation to illegal cigarettes — paltry fines and a black market that supplies illegal cigarettes at half the price of legitimate product means we are an illegal tobacco haven.
“The Customs authorities are doing excellent work but without comprehensive resources they will not catch everyone.
“Until the Government properly address the issue of tobacco smuggling in Ireland with joined-up thinking and allocate the proper resources to curb it, then one in every four cigarettes in this country will continue to evade Irish duty, encouraging criminality and robbing the exchequer of hundreds of millions a year.”