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Illegal cigarettes in Blackpool, Cork

source: dan linehan, irish examiner

Mr O’Reilly said there was a far higher percentage of potentially lethal illegal whites in Ireland than in Britain. He said there was some evidence to show some of these cigarettes smuggled into Ireland were later exported to Britain.

Mr Donohoe said the illegal whites were being smuggled into Ireland in containers through ports such as Dublin, Ringaskiddy, and Rosslare. It is believed the gangs are shipping in containers which each contain illegal cigarettes with a street value of €1m.

The profits are so lucrative that drug dealing gangs are increasingly turning to this illicit trade, especially as the penalties if caught are miniscule. A person found with more than €10,000 in drugs could face up to 14 years in jail. If it was €10,000 of illegal cigarettes or even more, they would probably get a fine. A jail sentence is extremely rare for cigarette smuggling.

The undercover team put all the contraband they get into evidence bags and the information they have gained during the course of their work, such as names, addresses, and phone numbers, will be passed onto the gardaí.

It is believed legitimate cigarette manufacturers, who have seen their profits tumble as a result of smuggling, will use evidence gathered by the team to lobby the Government for increased penalties for those caught with illicit cigarettes.

While they have a vested interest in a crackdown on such activity, they can also argue with some authority about the greater health risk of smoking illegal whites.

They will also point out the ease at which criminal gangs can make serious money to further their own activities and the knock-on cost this has to society, coupled with the huge loss of revenue to the State.

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