Belfast Telegraph

Police seize 4.8m cigarettes in raids on loyalist crime gangs

By Staff Reporter

Police have seized cigarettes and cash linked to loyalist paramilitaries in an operation spanning Northern Ireland.

On Wednesday the paramilitary crime taskforce - a team of PSNI, HMRC and National Crime Agency officers - displayed the haul, which also included football shirts and material likely to have been used in a commemoration of the historical UVF.

A total of 4,886,580 cigarettes and 695.93 kilograms of hand-rolling tobacco was found during searches in the Banbridge, Carryduff and Ballyclare areas.

The suspected illicit tobacco products, worth an estimated £1,896,797 in lost tax, were found during a search of businesses, shops and a home last Friday.

A sum of £21,640 in cash was also seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act and a 56-year-old arrested. He was later released pending further investigation.

Steve Tracey, assistant director of the fraud investigation service for 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 added: "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.

"They and customers who knowingly purchase illicit cigarettes should also be aware that they may be indirectly funding terrorism and criminality, which bring 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 the police on 101."

Belfast Telegraph

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