Smith to be updated on illegal sale of duty-free

 

The Minister for Defence, Mr Smith, is visiting United Nations headquarters in New York and will receive a report on the alleged involvement of some UN personnel in the illegal sale of duty-free tobacco and alcohol.

Mr Smith is in New York primarily to ratify an agreement between the Republic and the United Nations over a commitment for the Defence Forces to supply troops for peacekeeping operations.

The United Nations Stand-by Arrangements System agreement commits the Republic to providing up to 850 soldiers on stand-by for service with the UN.

The arrangement is designed to provide the UN with the ability to respond rapidly to major human crises.

In a speech on Tuesday, during a review of the latest battalion of Irish soldiers to serve with the UN in Lebanon, Mr Smith said the signing of the UNSAS agreement was a clear indication of Ireland's ongoing commitment to the UN.

While he is at UN headquarters in New York, Mr Smith will be meeting senior officials who have responsibility for an investigation into the apparent illegal sale of up to $2 million worth of duty-free tobacco and alcohol from UN bases in Cyprus.

The UN believes the goods were bought at the very cheap duty-free rates - a litre bottle of Irish whiskey sells for $9 - and sold on the local tourist market.

Mr Smith said there were "preliminary" indications that Irish personnel were involved.