Belfast, Northern Ireland - nine million counterfeit cigarettes seized..

July 29, 2009 - More than nine million suspected counterfeit (illegal, illicit, contraband) cigarettes have been seized in freight containers at Belfast docks over the last 24 hours. About 3.5 million John Player Special cigarettes were found on Tuesday night, July 28th by the UK Border Agency concealed in two containers under a load of granite. On Wednesday morning, July 29th officers uncovered six million mixed-brand cigarettes in a trailer containing peppers. A man from County Armagh was arrested by Customs after the second find. The brands found in the second batch included Benson and Hedges and Marlboro. The cigarettes were in boxes hidden amongst a cover load of peppers.

The cigarettes have an estimated duty loss of almost £2m (2,000,000.00 GBP =
3,300,367.63 USD).

John Whiting, of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC's purpose is to make sure that the money is available to fund the UK's public services): "Tobacco smuggling is not a victimless crime. "The huge profits reaped from the sales of illegal cigarettes are ploughed straight back into the criminal underworld, feeding activities like drug dealing and fraud. "Purchasing cheap cigarettes without the duty paid on them means trading with criminals, and undermining honest businesses."

Maggie Eyden, of the UK Border Agency in Northern Ireland said: "UK Border Agency and HMRC are committed to stamping out the problem of cigarette and tobacco smuggling. "This criminal activity undermines public health by creating a cheap and unregulated supply."

Reference: 9m cigarettes are seized at docks in Belfast, Northern Ireland, BBC News Channel, 7/29/2009.

Top image - Coat of Arms of Northern Ireland..