Retail industry experts have expressed concern about a growing black market economy in Ireland, following the seizure of eight million counterfeit cigarettes in Armagh this week.
The illegal shipment is thought by HM Revenues and Customs to be worth around £2.4 million, with all arrested suspects residents of Eire.
It is one in a string of smuggling busts that have occurred in the country and Retail Ireland, the industry representative group, is concerned about the affect it could have on trading.
Torlach Denihan, Retail Ireland’s Director, said: “The size of the most recent seizure is a real concern. It is inevitable that some of these were destined for the Republic.
“The increasing frequency of seizures demonstrates the worrying level of black market activity.”
According to the Irish Independent seizures of untaxed cigarettes have increased fourfold in the past five years and that no tax will be paid on one-in-five cigarettes smoked in Ireland this year.
Irish retail had been under severe pressure this year even before the emergency budget which is set to seriously hamper consumer spending and was caused by the nation being bailed out financially by the European Union.
Denihan added: “Irish retailers are already dealing with a high cost base, including high rents, commercial rates and wage costs. The last thing they need is to have to deal with increasing black market activity.
“In view of the current crisis in the public finances and the consequent tax increases and cutbacks facing the public, those convicted of tobacco smuggling should face the maximum fine permitted by law in all cases and, evidence permitting, jailed as well.”