Category: Archive

No ifs, ands or butts: Belfast cigarette raid

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Stephen McKinley

Cigarettes continue to fuel a large segment of the black market economy in Northern Ireland. Last Friday evening, £4 million worth of cigarettes was snatched from docks in Belfast in an armed robbery.

The cigarettes were being exported to Belgium, but a gang of seven gunmen dressed in RUC uniforms locked security staff in a container, then fled in four trucks with the goods.

Police sources said the staff, uninjured, were nevertheless frightened and distressed.

"One of the men was a crane driver, who was taken up into his crane and ordered to lift the containers, two of which were on the ship, and load them onto the back of the lorries," a police officer said.

The staff were stuck in the container until colleagues heard their cries for help.

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The stolen cigarettes bear French and German health warnings. Two of the four trucks used to take the cigarettes away, were found abandoned in County Louth. A third truck was found at Bankmore Road, Omagh, in Co. Tyrone.

With organized crime rising, police have reckoned that as many as three quarters of all cigarettes sold over the counter in the North have been smuggled.

The police are appealing for information from witnesses, and suspect the heist was the work of dissident republicans.

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