3 September 2021 No Comments by The Northern Standard

“We believe more can be done by policymakers to tackle the growing illegal trade in tobacco products in Ireland,” stated Benny Gilsenan of the Retailers Against Smuggling or RAS trade body this week. Mr Gilsenan said there were strong indications from recent seizures by Revenue that the Border region was becoming a focus for the manufacture and distribution of illegal tobacco products, and that the trade was closely linked to organised crime activity.

Mr Gilsenan said the fact that Revenue had seized 13.5 tonnes of loose raw tobacco this year indicated the likelihood of largescale illegal cigarette factories operating on the island of Ireland. “To date Revenue has announced four major seizures of loose raw tobacco with a combined estimated retail value of €8.1 million representing a potential loss to the Exchequer of €6.7 million,” the RAS spokesperson pointed oout. “The significant volume of the consignments being seized, and the elaborate means being used to conceal this raw tobacco suggests that it’s unlikely the product is intended for direct resale to the consumer on the black market.

“The recent spike in these types of seizures has risen suspicion among legitimate retailers that the intended destination is likely to be illegal cigarette making factories operated by criminal gangs in either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland. “In 2018, Gardaí and Revenue officials uncovered the first illegal commercial-scale cigarette production plant found in the State in Jenkinstown Co Louth, which was capable of producing up to 250,000 cigarettes per hour. During that raid up to 66 tonnes of raw tobacco were seized which gives us sense of the volume of tobacco product required to run such an operation.

“The fear among retailers is that the volumes of raw tobacco now being seized at Irish ports are at a level which indicates that similar underground facilities are operational on the island of Ireland. “For example, we know that roughly 13-15 million cigarettes could be produced from the 13.5 tonnes of raw tobacco seized alone, and we suspect further large volumes are getting into…

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