Northern Ireland news

Two jailed after underground cigarette factory found in south Armagh

Searches of an outhouse revealed industrial scale cigarette manufacturing machinery, concealed in an underground concrete bunker

TWO men have been jailed after an underground cigarette factory was discovered in south Armagh.

Reinolds Kondrats (30) and Germans Solovjovs (26) were arrested at a house on on the Ballynaclosha Road in Silverbridge in November 2019.

Searches of an outhouse revealed industrial scale cigarette manufacturing machinery, concealed in an underground concrete bunker that was accessed via a hidden door.

The men were charged with tax evasion and remanded in custody.

While the sophisticated factory was not yet operational, it was in the process of being set up by the pair and would have been capable of producing one million illicit cigarettes a day.

The machinery, estimated to be worth £270,000, was seized along with five bags of processed tobacco.

Steve Tracey, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said trade in illegal tobacco would not be tolerated.

"It undermines legitimate traders, including small, independent shops that serve local communities, and takes funding away from our vital public services," he said.

"That's why disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market."

Both men pleaded guilty to all charges last month. Kondrats and Solovjovs were sentenced to two years in prison.

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