Cigarettes and cash seized during search operation

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Detectives investigating organised crime carried out a number of searches in Banbridge on Wednesday, December 6.

The searches were part of an operation by the Belfast Criminal Investigation Branch which saw 18 searches carried out at properties across Banbridge, Belfast, Londonderry and Dundonald in conjunction with HMRC and FACT – the UK’s leading intellectual property protection organisation.

During the searches officers seized more than 8,000 cigarettes, 2.9 kgs of rolling tobacco, 232 cigars, 50 illegal streaming devices and approximately £5,000 in cash.

Two males were arrested - one in Londonderry and one in Dundonald - during the multi-agency operation on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.

Commenting on the joint operation, Detective Inspector Natalie McNally said: “This is a further demonstration of our determination to tackle organised crime and those that gain from it.

“Buying cheap counterfeit goods, cigarettes or tobacco products, which have been purchased without the relevant duty being paid, or illegal streaming devices - all of which may appear to be bargains - means that revenue to the legitimate economy is lost. This criminal activity puts jobs at risk and, ultimately, in terms of duty evasion, means there is less money available to provide for our public services, like health and education.

“There is also a wealth of evidence that shows money made from the sale of counterfeit goods is used to fund other forms of crime, so there really is no such thing as victimless crime. We all end up paying the price.”

She added: “I would appeal for anyone with information regarding criminality by paramilitary organisations to contact police on 101. Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 which is 100 per cent anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime.”