1. ITV Report

Nearly five million cigarettes seized during NI searches

A total of 4,886,580 cigarettes and 695.93kg of hand-rolling tobacco were seized. Credit: HMRC

Nearly five million cigarettes and almost 700kg of tobacco have been seized during a major operation by police and customs officers in Northern Ireland.

The haul – worth an estimated £1.9m in lost duty and taxes - was uncovered during searches of five commercial premises, one retail premises and one residential address in the Banbridge, Carryduff and Ballyclare areas on Friday.

A sum of £21,640 in cash was also seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

More of the haul uncovered by the Paramilitary Crime Task Force and HMRC. Credit: HMRC

Steve Tracey, from HM Revenue and Customs, said the operation was targeting criminal gangs “stealing from the taxpayer, robbing public services and undermining legitimate, honest traders”.

PSNI Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton said: “Retailers who stock and sell illicit cigarettes to the public should think carefully about the potential implications upon conviction.

“They and customers who knowingly purchase illicit cigarettes should also be aware that they may be indirectly funding terrorism and criminality which brings misery and harm to local communities, all for their own selfish gains.”

A 56-year-old man, from the Banbridge area, was arrested and has since been released pending further investigations.

Police warn that illicit tobacco products can be used to fund terrorism and criminality. Credit: HMRC