Three men arrested in Tyrone as part of a HM Revenue and Customs investigation into a suspected £110m tobacco fraud that also shut down a tobacco processing plant, have been released on bail pending further enquiries.
HMRC investigators, along with PSNI officers, searched nine addresses in Tyrone, Down and Armagh on Tuesday morning [February 3], whilst two simultaneous searches took place in Louth and Dublin with support from An Garda Síochána.
The Tyrone residence that was searched led to the arrests of the 25, 31 and 35-year-old men, whilst one million cigarettes, worth an estimated £250k were seized.
As well as the three men arrested in Tyrone, a man aged 52 and a women aged 47 were also arrested following searches at four properties in Down which yielded a further £20k cash.
The pair have now been released on bail.
At the four properties searched in Armagh - three residential and one business - 12 tonnes of unprocessed tobacco worth an estimated £2m, one million cigarettes worth an estimated £250k and £30k in cash were seized.
Three properties were searched in Louth, and two in Dublin.
These searches led to a further 334,000 cigarettes worth around €100,200 being seized.
The tobacco plant, 12 tonnes of raw tobacco, two million cigarettes and £50k in cash were seized during the operation in Northern Ireland.
Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation at HMRC, Mike Parkinson said: “The trade in illicit tobacco is unregulated and makes cheaper tobacco more readily available to the young and vulnerable.
“Tobacco fraud is a highly organised global crime which costs the UK £2b a year in lost taxes.
“Co-operation with our partners across the UK, Ireland and overseas is essential if we are to tackle this problem effectively.”