Convicted smuggler arrested after multimillion euro tobacco seizure

Three men in custody after 8 million illegal cigarettes found during cross-Border raids

Officers from HM Revenue and Customs search a property in Newry, Co Armagh on Saturday morning along with colleagues from the PSNI. Photograph: HMRC

A convicted cigarette smuggler is one of three men in custody following a joint operation between the Garda and the PSNI which resulted in the seizure of millions of euro worth of tobacco.

Three men, aged 34, 37 and 55, were arrested in Newry, Co Armagh, on Saturday by the PSNI and about eight million smuggled cigarettes were seized.

One of the arrested men is a Louth criminal suspected of running a large-scale smuggling operation which has a turnover of “several million a year”, a Garda source said. He has a previous conviction from Wexford Circuit Court for smuggling almost €60,000 worth of tobacco into Ireland.

Gardaí and the PSNI launched the raids on Saturday following weeks of surveillance of the gang, which has connections to criminal groups in several European countries.


Officers from An Garda and the Revenue Commissioners assisted members of the PSNI and HM Revenue and Customs during the operation.

Searches were carried out simultaneously on both sides of the Border. In the South, seven searches were carried out in the Carlingford area of Co Louth by gardaí and Revenue officials as part of the operation.

Vehicles, €100,000 in cash and 2½ tonnes of raw tobacco were seized during these searches.

The raw tobacco has an estimated value of €1.55 million and represented a potential loss of €1.24 million to the Exchequer.

Some of the tobacco that was seized by gardaí during searches in Carlingford, Co Lough. Photograph: An Garda
Some of the cash seized by gardaí during raids in Carlingford, Co Louth. Photograph: An Garda

The officers also seized 1,900kg of hand-rolling tobacco packaged for sale with a value of €1.2 million. Gardaí said this represents a potential loss to the Exchequer of almost €947,500.

Equipment for the manufacture of tobacco products and mobile fuel-laundering machinery hidden in an articulated lorry was also seized.

The cigarettes seized in Northern Ireland represent a loss of about £8 million (€8.9 million) to the UK treasury.

It is believed the Irish gang worked with Dutch criminals to smuggle the tobacco by truck from Germany to Ireland where it was to be sold on the black market on both sides of the Border.

Cross-Border policing

On Sunday, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan praised the work of both police forces which were working together through the Joint Agency Task Force, a cross-Border policing initiative established in 2016.

“The seizures yesterday in Armagh and Louth – including 8 million cigarettes, tobacco products to the value of over €2.7 million as well as fuel-laundering machinery and cash – represent a significant success for law enforcement on both sides of the border and I offer my thanks and congratulations to all those involved.

"They demonstrate the close practical cooperation between An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners and their counterparts in the PSNI and HM Revenue and Customs, and I welcome this successful large scale cooperation yesterday," Mr Flanagan said.

“We are seeing unprecedented levels of cooperation between law enforcement agencies North and South, in tackling cross-border crime of all types including organised burglary, drug crime, rural and farm crimes as well as smuggling.”

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times