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No smoke without ire — loyalists benefit from smuggled ciggie sales

(Allison Morris, Irelandclick.com)

Penny-pinching customers are being targeted by the PSNI in the drive against illegal cigarette scams instead of the wealthy traders behind the rip-off.

Cigarettes smuggled into the North from mainland Europe are sold openly from two illegal stalls in the Sunday market.

One West Belfast resident, who has been gathering information on the traders, claims the PSNI are concentrating on the customers buying the cigarettes instead of targeting the Mr Bigs.

The man claims the PSNI are targeting unsuspecting customers, waiting until they have bought the cigarettes before swooping and confiscating the illegal haul. He says it’s a flawed strategy.

Shocked onlookers say PSNI officers are swooping to remove the cigarettes from customers who have travelled to the market to save just a few pounds when the smugglers are making thousands and even millions.

The illegal traders, who also sell loyalist paraphernalia openly from the same stalls, are being allowed to rake in the profit from their illegal activity with little or no intervention from the PSNI.

The West Belfast resident, who has been collecting times and dates of incidents with a view to passing the details on to the Police Ombudsman, revealed: “The police are looking out for customers carrying packs or bags of cigarettes.

“On one occasion the police took a plastic bag containing cigarettes from a man who had bought them just minutes before.

“On another occasion the PSNI put their hands on a customer’s shoulder and removed the bag.

“Surely they should be trying to catch the traders. After all, it’s them who are making the big money.

“The people buying the cigarettes are just ordinary Joe Soaps trying to save a few quid.

“The PSNI are targeting the small fish when they should be concentrating instead on getting their hands on the big dealers who are making the money of this business.

“I am compiling a dossier of evidence on the matter and will be approaching the Police Ombudsman with my findings in the very near future.”

August 29, 2003

This article appeared first on the Irelandclick.com web site on August 28, 2003.