by Q Radio news
Nearly 5 million cigarettes, believed to have been brought illegally into Northern Ireland by loyalist paramilitaries, have been seized by the authorities.
They were discovered last Friday.
A 56 year-old man has been arrested after searches were carried out in several towns including Banbridge and Ballyclare.
Twenty thousand pounds in in cash as well as clothing and perfume was also seized.
Nearly 5m cigarettes have been seized as part of a joint operation between the Paramilitary Crime Task Force and HMRC. Tobacco, clothing and perfumes were also seized. HMRC believes the loss of revenue for tobacco products is estimated to be around £1.9m. DCSI Bobby Singleton: pic.twitter.com/MSd8ASN5th— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) 30 January 2019
(Contraband cigarettes seized in county Down and Antrim)
Detective Chief Superintendent Bobby Singleton outlined to Q Radio the loss of revenue to the Treasury...
Officers from the Paramilitary Crime Task Force have seized 4,886,580 cigarettes and 695.93 kilograms of hand-rolling tobacco (HRT) during searches in the Banbridge, Carryduff and Ballyclare areas.
The suspected illicit tobacco products, worth an estimated £1,896,797 in lost duty and taxes, were found during the search of five commercial premises, one retail premises and one residential address on Friday 25 January 2019. A sum of £21,640 in cash was also seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Steve Tracey, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), said:
“Working together in partnership with other enforcement colleagues we can target the criminal gangs stealing from the taxpayer, robbing public services and undermining legitimate, honest traders.”
Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton, PSNI, said:
“Police are committed to working alongside our partner agencies to combat the illicit trade of illegal tobacco and put those who seek to profit from criminality before the courts.
“Retailers who stock and sell illicit cigarettes to the public should think carefully about the potential implications upon conviction. They and customers who knowingly purchase illicit cigarettes should also be aware that they may be indirectly funding terrorism and criminality which brings misery and harm to local communities, all for their own selfish gains. I would like to thank our partners in HMRC for their assistance with this operation.
“I would appeal for anyone with information regarding criminality by paramilitary organisations to contact police on 101. Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime.”
A 56-year-old man, from the Banbridge area, was arrested and interviewed and has been released pending further investigation.
Investigations are ongoing.