Category: Archive

Officials: cigarette seizures will impair dissident fundraising

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — In a major blow to fundraising efforts by republican dissidents, police and customs raids on ships north and south of the border have resulted in large seizures of black-market cigarettes, most of them expected to be smuggled on into Britain.

About 60 million contraband cigarettes were seized. The multi-million-pound cargoes had arrived on board vessels from two Baltic countries. The seizures followed surveillance by the navy, police and customs authorities in both jurisdictions.

Security forces linked both operations to the Real IRA, whose operations have been increasingly hit by either penetration by informers or high-tech surveillance.

Largely cut off from U.S. funding since the U.S. State Department designated it as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” last year, smuggling and dealing in counterfeit goods has become the main cash earner for the Real IRA.

This has led to tensions with former Provisional IRA activists who are also involved in cross-border racketeering and smuggling.

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Under the U.S.’ 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, it is a crime to collect or provide funds, weapons and other types of support for designated organizations. Any funds collected for the organization can be seized and frozen.

The cigarette seizures were made on vessels that had docked in Dundalk, Co. Louth, and in Warrenpoint, Co. Down.

In the first seizure, about 20 million cigarettes were found concealed inside bales of timber on the ship that had sailed from Muuga, near Tallinn, Estonia, to Dundalk.

“The seizure was made as a result of an international operation,” a customs spokesman said in Dublin.

With suspicions that arms importation might also be involved, the Irish Navy kept the vessel under surveillance as it approached Ireland.

Officers from the Revenue Commissioners’ enforcement division boarded the vessel when it docked. It is estimated that the haul represents a potential loss of tax revenue of _3 million.

“We believe a large proportion of the consignment was due to be smuggled on into Northern Ireland and Britain,” the spokesman said.

The second “rummage,” by Northern Ireland customs officials in Warrenpoint, yielded about 40 million cigarettes worth almost _8 million that was hidden in a ship that had come from Riga, Latvia.

A crackdown on black-market street sellers in the Republic and regulations requiring special excise stamps on legitimate packs of cigarettes has hit what had become a highly lucrative criminal business south of the border.

Criminal gangs had abandoned the more high-risk illicit drug smuggling to concentrate on the high-profit, low-risk contraband cigarette trade.

Last year, customs officers south of the border seized 96 million smuggled cigarettes in a number of raids.

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