Cigarettes worth €4.3m seized at Louth service station
Haul was found on truck that had arrived in Dublin port from Malaysia
The cigarettes found today in the back of a truck near Castlebellingham, Co Louth
A major international operation involving Revenue’s Customs officers and most of the Garda’s anti-organised crime units has resulted in the arrests of four men and the seizure of cigarettes valued at € 4.3 million.
The intelligence-led operation resulted in nine premises in Louth and Dublin being searched including solicitors and accountants offices and a business supplying the home wares sector.
The operation was led by Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne, who is in charge of all specialist units across the Garda.
Of the four suspects arrested, three are from Co Louth and one is from Armagh. One of the men was driving a truck carrying the cigarettes when gardaí moved in while the other three men were in a 4X4 vehicle following behind.
The seizure was made and the suspects arrested when the Garda team moved in on the men and vehicles at a service station on the M1 near Castlebellingham.
When the truck was opened, gardaí found 9 million cigarettes packed into the back. The haul has an estimated retail value of € 4.3 million and if sold at retail prices on the black market would result in a loss to the Exchequer of €3.7 million.
The Irish Times understands both Europol and Interpol have been involved in the operation.
When the cigarettes landed at Dublin Port and were confirmed as being present in a container, it was sealed up and a surveillance operation was put in place.
When the container was collected and driven away, it was tracked as part of a controlled delivery operation.
However, before it reached its destination the Garda and Customs team moved in when the vehicles stopped at the Co Louth service station.
The driver of the truck, a 36-year-old from Co Louth, was arrested as were the three men in the 4X4 that had been following his truck.
Of those, two are from Dundalk, Co Louth, and are aged 39 and 44 years while the man they were with is aged 38 years and has an address in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh.
Gardaí believe the cigarettes were destined for one of the largest smuggling gangs in the country and which has been under investigation by the Criminal Assets Bureau for some time.
Gardaí believe the gang has also been involved in armed robberies and burglaries at commercial premises. Garda members involved in Operation Creeper, which targets burglary gangs, and Operation Delivery, which targets armed robberies, including those of cash in transit vans, were involved in today’s operation.
As well as the Cab, the Garda’s Organised Crime Unit, Crime and Security and the Garda National Drugs Unit were also involved.