Ireland: From armed struggle to cigarette smuggle
4 March 2010
The Irish Times
Six years after becoming the first European country to impose a smoking ban in restaurants and pubs, Ireland is now at the centre of a continent wide illegal tobacco trade. The Irish Times looks at the role of former IRA members and drug gangs in this lucrative industry.
When gardai and Customs officers staged a major raid on suspected cigarette smugglers last November they found something there weren’t expecting. Instead of the usual large boxes of cigarettes – either fake imports or legitimately produced smokes on which import duties had not been paid – the authorities found evidence of a very sophisticated operation. A search of a truck parked in a yard in smuggling country near Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, yielded enough tobacco, cigarette paper, filters and packaging for 12 million cigarettes.
“It would have been processed into finished packets of smokes at an illegal processing plant somewhere along the Border,” said one well-placed source. The haul, valued at €5 million and traced back to a Danish port, had entered the Republic by car ferry. Customs officers checked the container freight using an X-ray scanner. The X-rays showed that whatever was in the 40ft container was not the paper products mentioned in the shipping documents. The lorry driver was questioned and released. There wasn’t any evidence to identify the borderlands gang behind the haul. A massive shipment had been taken off the streets, but nobody was caught. It’s a familiar pattern in the booming and expanding cigarette smuggling trade, which cost the exchequer €400 million last year in taxes and duties forgone. Read full article in Irish Times...