Belfast Telegraph

Cigarette haul worth 3m euro seized

Eight million cigarettes smuggled into the country from China have been seized by customs officers and gardai.

The haul, worth 3.4 million euro, was discovered in a container attached to a truck on the M1 near Drogheda, Co Louth, on Wednesday night.

Two men were arrested in relation to the find, with a 56-year-old later released without charge. The second man, aged 41, remains in custody in Navan Garda Station.

The unstamped contraband Benson & Hedges cigarettes had arrived at Dublin Port in the 40ft container from China. The Revenue's Customs Service said that if sold, the haul would have cost the exchequer nearly 3 million euro.

Last year 178.3 million cigarettes worth 75.1 million euro were seized.

Retailers Against Smuggling, the representative group for Ireland's tobacco retailers, commended the work of officials but said higher fines need to be imposed on cigarette smugglers.

Spokesman Benny Gilsenan said: "Major criminals are using Ireland for the illegal cigarette trade due the high profit margins they can make from selling illegal tobacco and the paltry fines that are being handed out by the judiciary.

"The average fine for a person caught smuggling in 2010 was just over 500 euro despite the maximum fine being increased to 126,970 euro in last year's Finance Bill."

Mr Gilsenan added: "The fines are meaningless and pathetic and there is now a real onus on the judiciary to finally step up and hand out sentences that befit the crime."

Customs have urged anyone with information on the smuggling or sale of illegal cigarettes to call the confidential free phone number 1800 295 295.

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