An illicit commercial cigarette factory in Jenkinstown, Co Louth was shut down by Gardaí this morning.
This is the first time a commercial illicit cigarette production plant was discovered in the State and the factory was in full operation when Revenue officers and the Armed Support Unit of An Garda Síochána entered the premises just before 8am this morning.
Eleven men, all from Eastern Europe, ranging in age from their late 20s to late 50s, were arrested by gardaí and brought to Dundalk Garda Station. All detained under Section 4 – Criminal Justice Act 1984.
Revenue officers found more than 40 tonnes of tobacco, all the pre-cursor components for the manufacture of cigarettes, and approximately 25 million cigarettes, branded “Mayfair”, ready for distribution.
"This was a sophisticated self-contained operation with machinery capable of producing 250,000 illicit cigarettes per hour and pre-processing, processing and packaging facilities, along with living quarters," Gardaí stated.
Illicit cigarettes that originated in this factory have previously been seized in both Ireland and the UK. If the finished cigarettes seized at the factory today had reached the Irish market, the estimated loss to the Exchequer would have been approximately €12m.
Investigations are ongoing, nationally and internationally.
Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, T.D thanked An Garda Síochána, Revenue, Customs officials and the PSNI for their involvement.
"I commend the excellent work of the Gardaí and other State agencies in relation to the illegal cigarette production operation in Jenkinstown, Co Louth this morning," he said.
"A very substantial amount of cigarettes and tobacco have been seized, and 11 arrests have been made.
This operation clearly demonstrates the benefits of the close working relationship between An Garda Síochána, Revenue, Customs officials and the PSNI in tackling this type of fraudulent activity.
"Highly trained Armed Support Units also attended the scene and I thank them for their ongoing efforts to disrupt all forms of serious crime."
The public has been asked to report anyone evading tax or involved in smuggling, or the illegal cigarette trade, report it to Revenue’s Confidential Freephone line at 1800 295 295.