Irish authorities make record cigarette seizure

OLAF /09/15 Brussels, 28 October 2009

"Absolutely delighted" was the reaction of staff at OLAF, the European Commission Anti-Fraud Office, to the news yesterday that the authorities in Ireland had seized over 120 million contraband cigarettes in Greenore Port, County Louth, in what is thought to be that largest single seizure ever made in the EU. The cigarettes, with a potential revenue loss of €40 million, had been shipped from the Philippines to Ireland, mis-described as animal feed and were seized following a major international operation involving OLAF.

"I would like to congratulate all of those responsible for this seizure, particularly the Irish Revenue’s Customs Service who coordinated this outstanding, multi-agency operation" said OLAF Director-General Franz-Hermann Brüner. "This is a major achievement in the fight against cigarette smuggling in the EU which clearly demonstrates the importance, and benefits, of close, international co-operation."

Approximately 150 officers participated in the Operation, which in the Republic of Ireland involved Officers of Revenue's Customs Service, An Garda Siochana, The Criminal Assets Bureau, the Irish Naval Service and Air Corps and in Northern Ireland, Officers of HM Revenue & Customs and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

OLAF will co-ordinate the international aspects of the follow-up investigations which will now take place. "The Irish authorities have struck a hard blow at international organised crime and OLAF will provide all the support necessary in this important investigation" added Franz-Hermann Brüner.

For further details about the Operation, please see the Press Release issued by the Irish Revenue’s Customs Service on 27th October below.

A news release dated 27 October 2009, issued by the Revenue’s Customs Service, stated the following:

Operation 'Samhna' : Potentially the largest seizure
of cigarettes ever

A multi agency operation, code named 'Samhna', headed up by Revenue's Customs Service, is currently underway in Greenore Port, Co Louth, and surrounding area. 

The operation, targeting the suspected criminal activities of an organised crime group operating both north and south of the border, involved the surveillance of a general cargo vessel M/V Anne Scan, which sailed from the Philippines on 15/09/2009 for Greenore Port, arriving at approximately 0600 hours on Monday, 26/10/2009, carrying a cargo declared as 'animal feed'. Officers kept the vessel under surveillance, as they suspected that a large consignment of contraband cigarettes was concealed within the cargo.

Following the discharge of part of the cargo from the vessel earlier this morning onto awaiting trucks, which were allowed onwards to the importer's premises, the multi agency task force, involving Officers of Revenues Customs Service and An Garda Siochana, moved in and raided several premises in the Co. Louth area, in addition to mounting an operation on the vessel itself.  A large consignment of contraband cigarettes has been confirmed, estimated to be in excess of 120m cigarettes with a retail value of about EUR50m and a potential revenue at risk of approximately EUR40m. Several persons have been arrested at various locations by the Gardai for questioning.

The operation in the Republic of Ireland involved Officers of Revenue's Customs Service, An Garda Siochana, The Criminal Assets Bureau, the Irish Naval Service and Air Corps and in Northern Ireland, Officers of HM Revenue & Customs and the PSNI. In addition the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), which was also involved, will co-ordinate the international enquiries which will form part of  the follow-up investigations. It is estimated that in excess of 150 Officers from the various Agencies participated in the field in today's operation.
Two of the vessels that supported the operation were Revenue's Customs cutter RCC Faire and the Navy vessel LE Niamh. Hailing the operation as a great success, Revenue Commissioner Liam Irwin said:"The success of this operation is a credit to the close working arrangements and cooperation between the various law enforcement agencies both nationally and internationally. Criminals have no respect for national borders and international cooperation is now more essential than ever for law enforcement agencies.  This is a shining example of a multi-national, multi-agency response to criminal activity and all the agencies involved should be commended for the part they played in this successful operation". Garda Commissioner, Fachtna Murphy said:"This is a significant strike against organised crime. The success of the operation illustrates the results and benefits that flow from close interagency cooperation. I want to pay tribute to both our colleagues in Revenue Customs Service and my own members of An Garda Síochána who were involved in this morning's operation. Their hard work and dedication helps us to secure a safer community for everyone."
Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Dermot Earley congratulated "this joint action by the Revenue Customs Service, Garda Siochana and our LE Niamh which proves the need for this joint co-operation yet again. I know there is a lot of hard work to follow behind the scenes and the Defence Forces will continue to assist in every way it can".

Irish Revenue Press Release

Alessandro Butticé
Head of Spokesman, Communication and PR Unit
Tel : +32 (0)2 296.54.25
Fax : +32 (0)2 299.81.01
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