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Operations exposes illegal cigarette trade in Galway

Illegal cigarettes can easily be bought in Galway city, an undercover operation into illicit tobacco trade suggests.

The survey, conducted in December by retired undercover detectives, reveals the ease with which cigarettes and loose tobacco can be purchased in the city.

It was paid for by one of the tobacco industry’s leading players, Philip Morris International, whose main brand of cigarette is Marlboro.

A Galway website dedicated to selling illegal tobacco was uncovered in the sting; and illegal cigarettes were purchased in city pubs, from customers and staff, as well as from people trading on the streets.

The authors of the report gathered intelligence that suggested illegal tobacco was also for sale in Tuam and Athenry. “In nearly every town now there are one or two outlets where you can buy illicit or illegal cigarettes,” said Kevin Donohoe, a retired Detective Chief Superintendant in the Garda Síochána.

All intelligence is forwarded to Revenue Customs and Gardaí, he said.

Mr Donohoe, along with Will O’Reilly, former Detective Chief Inspector with Scotland Yard, carried out the research into the illegal tobacco trade in Ireland. The pair and a team of buyers visited Galway and 14 other urban areas last year.

The team of four visited Galway on December 8 and 9 last year, and despite the extremely wet weather, found it was easy to buy illicit cigarettes.

In total ten illicit tobacco products were purchased during the operation. The haul included two packs of illicit cigarettes, one carton of illicit cigarettes, five pouches of illicit roll-yourown tobacco, and two clear plastic bags of loose cut tobacco leaf. The cigarettes were being sold at about half the price of normal retail prices.

“In Galway City purchases were made twice from staff in a public house, once from a customer in a public house, three times (including one repeat) from males selling via the internet, and twice from sellers in the street. Overall we found illicit tobacco products relatively easy to obtain,” the report said.

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