Almost 11 million illegal cigarettes seized at Belfast Port
A significant seizure of illegal cigarettes has prevented Northern Ireland’s streets becoming “flooded” with the illicit items.
In a joint operation between HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Border Force, 10.8m cigarettes – worth around £5.3 million in unpaid taxes – were seized at Belfast Port on 20th June.
It has been confirmed that no arrests have yet been made following the seizure.
The cigarettes were discovered packed inside cardboard boxes within a container, which had been scanned by Border Force.
Lucie Irving, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC said this was a “huge seizure”.
“Cheap cigarettes come at a cost as they often fund organised crime and other illegal activity that causes real harm to our communities, such as drugs, guns and human trafficking.
“This is a huge seizure of illegal cigarettes and our streets would have been flooded with them had they not been discovered,” she added.
“We are determined to stamp out tobacco fraud by working closely with our partners in the UK and internationally to bring those responsible to justice.
‘Children and young people are key targets for those who peddle illegal tobacco and cigarettes’
“We urge anyone with information about cigarette fraud to contact HMRC online. Search ‘Report Fraud HMRC’ on GOV.UK and complete our online form.”
Darren Brabon, Assistant Director, Border Force Northern Ireland Command, said: “Illicit cigarettes are dangerous, harmful and fund organised criminal gangs.
“Children and young people are key targets for those who peddle illegal tobacco and cigarettes, encouraging them to take up smoking and exposing them to crime.
“This seizure is another example of our commitment with HMRC and partner agencies to stop these illicit items from entering the country and harming our communities.”
HMRC, which is leading the investigation, has appealed for anyone with information to come forward.