31/03/2004

Customs tobacco seizure success

Customs officers have seized half a million cigarettes and 14 kilos of tobacco during a series of operations in Antrim and Londonderry and at Belfast's airports.

The five-day operation, which ended on Sunday, saw baggage examinations carried out by Customs' North Regional Strike Force at Belfast's International and City airports resulting in the seizure of contraband cigarettes from 47 passengers returning to Belfast on flights from Tenerife and Arrecife.

In co-operation with PSNI, Customs officers also seized contraband tobacco following searches at 11 retail premises in Ballymena, Coleraine and Bushmills. The total revenue loss for these seizures is £93,000.

Commenting on the success, Customs Head of Detection Northern Ireland Colin McAllister said: "This operation is part of Customs'ongoing activity to detect not only the smuggling of illegal tobacco through Northern Ireland's ports and airports but also the onward transport and sale through commercial outlets across Northern Ireland.

"As we head towards summer, gangs of smugglers are exploiting the increasing number of cheap holiday flights in an attempt to avoid Customs controls but we have the flexibility to deploy officers wherever and whenever a risk is identified."

During operations at Belfast International Airport Customs officers seized 274 grams of herbal cannabis from a passenger on a flight arriving from Amsterdam. A Belfast man arrested in connection with the seizure has been released on bail pending further enquiries.

In a separate operation Customs officers have seized five vehicles during roadside checks for the illegal use of laundered and rebated fuel close to Nutts Corner market on Monday.

Flexible, mobile Customs teams carried out the operation during which over 120 private and commercial vehicles were stopped and tested for illegal fuel. The five vehicles seized were private with fines totalling £2,500 imposed on motorists for the return of their vehicles.

(MB)

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