Major haul of illicit tobacco after Ballyclare, Banbridge and Carryduff searches

Some of the suspected illicit tobacco products recovered in the operation.
Some of the suspected illicit tobacco products recovered in the operation.

The Paramilitary Crime Task Force has seized almost five million cigarettes and 700 kilograms of hand-rolling tobacco (HRT) during searches in the Banbridge, Carryduff and Ballyclare areas.

The suspected illicit tobacco products, worth an estimated £1,896,797 in lost duty and taxes, were found during the search of five commercial premises, one retail building and a residential address on Friday (January 25).

Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton pictured with some of the seized items.

Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton pictured with some of the seized items.

A sum of £21,640 in cash was also seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

A 56-year-old man, from the Banbridge area, was arrested and interviewed and has been released pending further investigation.

Steve Tracey, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), said: “Working together in partnership with other enforcement colleagues we can target the criminal gangs stealing from the taxpayer, robbing public services and undermining legitimate, honest traders.”

PSNI Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton said: “Police are committed to working alongside our partner agencies to combat the illicit trade of illegal tobacco and put those who seek to profit from criminality before the courts.

“Retailers who stock and sell illicit cigarettes to the public should think carefully about the potential implications upon conviction. They and customers who knowingly purchase illicit cigarettes should also be aware that they may be indirectly funding terrorism and criminality which brings misery and harm to local communities, all for their own selfish gains.

“I would like to thank our partners in HMRC for their assistance with this operation.

“I would appeal for anyone with information regarding criminality by paramilitary organisations to contact police on 101. Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime.”

Investigations are ongoing.