100,000 cigarettes seized by Paramilitary Crime Task Force

Cigarettes seized
Cigarettes seized

Officers from the Paramilitary Crime Task Force have seized 107,000 cigarettes and 21 kilograms of hand-rolling tobacco (HRT) during searches in south Belfast and Newtownabbey.

The seizure is part of an investigation into excise duty fraud and money laundering offences.

A PSNI spokesman said suspected illicit tobacco products, worth £46,500 in lost duty and taxes, were found during the search of three houses, five vehicles and one commercial premises in the south Belfast and Newtownabbey areas yesterday (Tuesday 13 August).

A sum of around £2,000 in cash was also seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

They added that two men - one aged 69-years and one aged 63-years and a 53-year-old woman - have been arrested and interviewed in relation to the evasion of excise duty.

Steve Tracey, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

“Working together in partnership with other enforcement colleagues we can target the criminal gangs who are stealing from the taxpayer, robbing public services and undermining legitimate, honest traders.”

Detective Chief Inspector Martin Cummings from PSNI said: “This seizure by the PCTF is a further sign of our continuing commitment to ending the funding streams that allow paramilitaries to perpetuate their organised criminality.

“There is no such thing as a victimless crime and the trade of illicit tobacco generates significant funds for paramilitary groups, in this case loyalist paramilitaries. Those who purchase these products should be under no illusion - they are indirectly funding the purchase of other commodities by paramilitaries. Money spent on illicit tobacco could be used by paramilitaries to buy drugs and weapons which bring harm and misery to families across Northern Ireland. Communities end up paying the price whilst paramilitaries profit.

“Investigations are ongoing.”