Northern Ireland

Customs seize smuggled cigarettes from ice cream van

Smuggled fuel pod
Image caption Containers containing suspected laundered fuel were seized from a van

An ice cream van being used to sell smuggled cigarettes has been seized by Customs officers in Carrickfergus.

It was one of a series of operations across Northern Ireland from Friday, in which thousands of litres of fuel and cigarettes were recovered.

HMRC's Mike Connolly said smuggling was not a harmless activity.

"The unregulated sale of illegal cigarettes from an ice cream van is of particular concern - children would often be the main customer," he said.

He said the smugglers "show utter contempt for the physical and economic safety of our communities with greed and personal gain costing us all, as taxpayers, billions every year in unpaid duty".

On Friday, a van carrying five containers holding 5,000 litres of suspected laundered fuel was intercepted at Ballygawley in County Tyrone.

A curtain-sided lorry, transporting 1,300 litres of fuel was also stopped in County Londonderry. The fuel and vehicles were seized.

On the same day, HMRC officers seized 300,000 smuggled cigarettes from a property in Meigh, South Armagh.

The following day, 1,200 cigarettes were seized from the ice cream van in Carrrickfergus and officers intercepted a car in Newtownhamilton, County Armagh and found 40,000 counterfeit cigarettes.

On Monday, a van carrying 3,000 litres of laundered fuel in containers was stopped at Banbridge in County Down.

During follow-up searches of business premises in Randalstown, County Antrim, a van running on red diesel was seized along with business records relating to a further 60,000 litres of smuggled fuel.