CONSIDERED the most lucrative form of organised criminal activity in the country, cigarette smuggling is on the increase. That is according to Retailers Against Smuggling, the representative group for Ireland’s tobacco retailers. Benny Gilsenan, made the claim after Revenue’s Customs officials seized over eight million cigarettes in an organised raid last week. The destination of the cigarettes is believed to have been criminal gangs and their linchpins operating in the Mid West and South of the country. The illegal cigarettes had a retail value of €3.1 million and a loss to the Exchequer of €2.5 million.
The size of the seizure reinforces the scale of the cigarette smuggling problem in Ireland.
“The size and value of the latest haul shows that cigarette smuggling is the most lucrative criminal activity for organised crime gangs,” said Mr Gilsenan.
“There are huge profits to be made from cigarette smuggling and the reality is that if even if a smuggler gets caught, the fines they receive are minor. A criminal who makes millions of euro in profits isn’t going to think twice about getting a thousand euro fine.
“We are particularly concerned that former drug dealers and dissident republicans are heavily involved in cigarette smuggling. The fact that a commercial vehicle from the North was seized as part of Customs’ operation suggests that there is a strong link to paramilitary groups.”
Mr Gilsenan, who was involved in the establishment of the group in June 2009, also called on the public to be vigilant and not to buy illegal cigarettes on street corners or at markets as this supported organised crime.