A Craigavon council member has claimed he was “given the brush-off” by police after reporting a number of outlets in Portadown alleged to be selling illicit cigarettes and perfume.
The DUP’s Jonny Buckley said he met the PSNI to complain that counterfeit cigarettes – “they had packaging that looked legitimate” – being sold at less than half the recommended retail price.
“It’s no secret to anyone in Portadown that this illicit trade is booming,” he added. “They are in the main street, in estates, and they are badly affecting bone fide traders – some say the official trade is down by 25 per cent, and when you add this to overheads like rent and rates to the official shops, it’s no wonder many seem to be struggling.
“Of course, one wonders what exactly is used to manufacture these cigarettes and perfume and what harm people are doing themselves. If it sound too good to be true it probably is.”
Mr Buckley added that his investigations showed that the goods were being shipped in from various parts of Europe – including Portugal and Lithuania – and that some were even doing a “circuit” out of Britain and being smuggled back in again to be sold at the lower prices.
Mr Buckley also claimed, “On one occasion 300 people were noted at an illegal outlet over a couple of hours.
“On another occasion a kilo of loose tobacco was purchased for £45 (by someone investigating the allegations) from a shop. These illicit shops are always busy, but very specifically between 12.30 and 2.30pm on a Friday when all the local workers get paid.
“Others who conduct legitimate businesses in the area are frightened but can’t speak out.”
He added that businesses and HMRC (customs) were losing out massively, but that the illegal shops seemed to be trading with impunity – “the dogs in the street know what’s happening”.
The Portadown Times has contacted both the PSNI and HMRC in the recent past. The police say that illegal trading is the responsibility of the HMRC, where a spokesperson said the problem was being tackled at its roots.
The spokesperson also warned people to be aware of the contents of the illegal goods – “it is known that some contain virtually lethal components, and people must be made aware of that”.
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