Ireland: Nearly US$6 Million in Smuggled Cigarettes Seized

Irish police arrested four men Tuesday and seized nine million cigarettes valued at €4.3 million, or US$5.7 million.

Officers of the Garda Síochána (Gardaí) and other law enforcement authorities stopped two vehicles at a service station near the northwestern village of Castlebellingham. Four men aged 36, 38, 39, and 44 were captured at the scene and accused of evading excise taxes under the Finance Act.

One of the men is regarded as a cross-border smuggling kingpin, reports the Belfast Telegraph. The paper says the unnamed businessman allegedly heads a criminal network known for smuggling and fuel laundering (illegally removing dye from fuel to evade taxes).

The smuggled cigarettes represent a loss of about US$5 million in taxes to the Irish government.

Tractors and agricultural equipment were seized in follow up searches in nine businesses and private residences in Louth and Dublin.

Authorities tracked the cigarettes for more than three weeks after a failed Al-Qaeda rocket attack on a freight ship in Suez Canal. The August 31 attack, which blew a hole in a container traveling from Southeast Asia to Ireland, was intended to disrupt international trade, according to Egyptian authorities.

When the authorities inspected the damaged container, they discovered the illicit cigarettes, which they fitted with monitoring devices and allowed to sail to Ireland.

The bust brings the total number of contraband cigarettes seized by the Irish Revenue Commissioners this year to 35 million.