Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Illegal cigarettes haul worth £1.2m seized in port bust

Cigarettes worth more than a million pounds have been seized by Border Force officers at Belfast docks.

The haul was packed into 140 cardboard boxes aboard a container marked as plastic bags for a supermarket.

It had arrived from the United Arab Emirates through Rotterdam.

The estimated evaded duty on the £1.2m seizure was around £250,000.

The boxes of cigarettes were destined for a business address in Northern Ireland.

John Spence, assistant director of Border Force in Northern Ireland, said its officers were on “constant alert to keep contraband goods and other banned substances out of the UK”.

“Anyone who smuggles tobacco for commercial gain is effectively stealing from the public purse and from law-abiding taxpayers,” he said. “The money from this kind of smuggling is often recycled into other forms of organised crime.”

According to Kieran Dougan of Border Force, the seizure is the second major haul of its kind in Northern Ireland this year.

“We had one in June where there was a seizure of £2.5m worth of cigarettes.

“It is important to stop this as the money is often used to finance things like people trafficking, the drugs trade and funding other criminal organisations.”

In June, more than four million cigarettes packed into cardboard boxes in a shipment from China marked as ‘coffee machines’ were uncovered.

The estimated duty of the haul was £1m.

The agency has seized a range of illegal weapons in the last few weeks — including stun guns, knuckle-dusters, knives and CS sprays — mainly from returning holidaymakers.

Along with the seizure of goods such as cigarettes, weapons and drugs it also handles immigration casework and overseas immigration and visa operations.

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