Cigarette Smugglers 'Get A Kicking'

Thousands of cigarettes posted to Northern Ireland from China have been uncovered hidden inside protective pads used by kickboxers.

The find was just the latest such haul having been recovered covered with tin foil and padding. The cigarettes were then shrink-wrapped in an attempt to evade detection.

They contained over 8,000 cigarettes and were intercepted by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) at a Royal Mail postal depot on Wednesday before they could be delivered to a south Belfast address.

They were seized as part of ongoing investigations into tobacco smuggling.

Just over 10 days earlier, seven men were arrested and around eight million counterfeit cigarettes, hidden in a shipment of under-floor heating pipes were also seized by HMRC.

The cigarettes, also thought to have originated in China, were seized following a multi-agency raid on commercial premises in the Forkhill area of south Armagh.

HMRC, assisted by officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), searched a 40' container where they uncovered the cigarettes, worth around £2.4 million.
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John Whiting, Assistant Director Criminal Investigation, HMRC said: "Tobacco smuggling is organised crime on a global scale with huge profits ploughed straight back into the criminal underworld, feeding activities like drug dealing, people smuggling and fraud.

"Purchasing cheap cigarettes without the duty paid on them means trading with criminals, and undermining honest businesses," he said.

The raids are increasingly of an all-Ireland nature with officers from the Irish Republic's Revenue's Customs Service yesterday seizing a total of 34,000 cigarettes that were being brought into the country illegally.

The total seizure was made in two parts, with some 14,000 cigarettes taken after officers stopped and searched a 25-year-old female in Dublin Airport.

The woman, who had arrived in Dublin on a flight originating in Kiev, was arrested and charged with offences under the Section 119 of Finance Act 2001.

She later appeared before Judge Hugh O'Donnell in the Criminal Justice Court, where she was remanded in custody until Friday 28th of January 2011 when she will appear again for a bail hearing.

In a second seizure at Kerry Airport on Wednesday, 20,000 cigarettes were seized when a 28-year-old male was stopped and searched.

The man, who had arrived in Kerry Airport on a flight originating in Spain, was arrested and brought before Tralee District Court where Judge James O'Connor remanded him in overnight custody to appear before Castleisland District Court this morning.

The seizures represent a potential loss to the Exchequer of €12,000.


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