An illicit tobacco factory capable of producing more than 390 million cigarettes a year and evading more than £160m in lost duty and taxes has been dismantled in Co Armagh.
According to HM Revenue and Customs, an estimated 11 tonnes of loose tobacco was seized, along with 1.6 million counterfeit cigarettes and the materials and equipment to produce many more.
The seized cigarettes and tobacco are thought to be worth £8.3m in lost duty and taxes.
The discovery was made after HMRC investigators and the PSNI searched premises in the Camlough and Silverbridge areas on Thursday.
Further investigations are ongoing.
Steve Tracey, Assistant Director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service, said: “The sale of illegal tobacco will not be tolerated by us or our Organised Crime Task Force partner agencies and disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £1.9bn a year.
“This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.”
Mr Tracey added: “Since 2015/16, we have protected over £13bn in revenue and seized over 7 billion illicit cigarettes and over 1,100 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco.
“There have also been more than 1,800 positive charging decisions in relation to tobacco fraud.
“We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to report it online or call the Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”