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Friday, 9 November, 2001, 13:02 GMT
Dissident link to cigarettes seizure
The ship had come from Latvia
The ship had come from Latvia
Dissident republican paramilitary group, the Real IRA, is being linked to two hauls of smuggled cigarettes seized in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland this week.

Twenty million contraband cigarettes were seized in Dundalk on Wednesday and 24 hours later, up to 40m cigarettes were uncovered across the border in Warrenpoint.

Thursday's cache which was found after a cargo ship was detained in Warrenpoint was thought to have been the biggest of its kind in Northern Ireland.

On Wednesday, a 3m cache of illegal cigarettes was found in Dundalk and was believed to have come from Estonia.

Smuggled cigarettes were hidden in wooden boxes
Smuggled cigarettes were hidden in wooden boxes

Dundalk-based garda superintendent Michael Staunton said there was "probably" a link between the two finds.

He said both ships were at sea at the same time, they were carrying the same cargo and heading to similar destinations.

Thursday's find was made after officials stopped the Cyprus-registered cargo vessel Sylvia in Warrenpoint docks.

It was en route from Riga in Latvia, but the final destination was unclear.

However the cargo was destined either for mainland Britain, Northern Ireland or the Irish Republic, according to a customs official.

We will not cease our campaign to flush these people out

Jane Kennedy

Customs and Excise spokesman Phil Rodgers said there were millions of cigarettes on board, hidden in wooden boxes.

He said: "The markets for illegal cigarettes could be in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland and could be on mainland Britain.

"There is a huge amount of cigarettes here, which would hit the illegal market, and obviously this illegal market is something we are trying to tackle at source because it is unfair.

"It attacks the livelihood of honest traders; it has links with organized crime and in particular it makes cigarettes cheaper and more accessible to vulnerable people, like children."

Northern Ireland Security Minister Jane Kennedy, who heads the Organised Crime Taskforce in the province, said the seizure was "another significant strike against organised crime".

"This is the latest in a series of recent finds and I look forward to further successes in the near future. We will not cease our campaign to flush these people out."

BBC NI's Ronan Breen reports
"Customs say there were millions of cigarettes on board the ship"
See also:

31 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Illegal goods seized in County Armagh
25 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Illicit spirit plant raided
28 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Customs seize cigarettes haul
16 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Customs seize 15m smuggled cigarettes
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