Northern Ireland

Loyalist paramilitaries linked to cigarette haul

Cigarettes
Image caption Police have seized millions of cigarettes in a one-day operation

Almost five million cigarettes have been seized by police in an operation targeting loyalist paramilitaries.

The PSNI's Paramilitary Crime Task Force seized the cigarettes and other goods, including tobacco, designer clothing, perfume and fireworks.

Searches on Friday centred on premises around Banbridge and Carryduff in County Down and Ballyclare, County Antrim.

Police estimate the tobacco represents a potential revenue loss of nearly £2m.

'Significant seizure'

They said the cigarettes were a mixture of counterfeit and real products.

While seized in a one-day operation against loyalist paramilitaries, police said the goods were intended for distribution across loyalist and republican groupings.

PSNI Det Supt Bobby Singleton said: "This is a really significant seizure for the Paramilitary Crime Task Force and a significant blow to the organised criminals behind it.

"The focus of our investigation in this particular case was individuals with links to loyalist paramilitaries, but it is our belief that these cigarettes and counterfeit goods would have been distributed across Northern Ireland and potentially across paramilitary groups."