The Modega cigarettes seized at Castlebellingham last year
A local businessman – nicknamed ‘the Jackal’ – has been identified by the Sunday World newspaper as the new ‘Mr Big’ of Ireland’s booming cigarette smuggling trade.
According to the paper, the 44-year-old is believed to have netted up to €20 million flooding the country with fake fags.
He had remained under the radar for years until an incredible brush with international terror group Al Qaeda unwittingly turned him into public enemy number one in Ireland’s war on cigarette smugglers.
When a terrorist cell attacked a ship in the Suez Canal, authorities discovered among its other cargo, a shipment of nine million illicit cigarettes bound for Ireland.
The Criminal Assets Bureau linked the haul to ‘The Jackal’ and launched a probe into his financial affairs.
The suspected smuggling kingpin has no convictions for terrorist related activity but sources say he is closely linked to the Real IRA and pays a sizeable portion of his enormous profits to the terror group.
The man is reported to have been shipping in contraband on an industrial level for years. He buys containers of cheap fags in the Far East for €20,000 and makes more than €1.6 million profit on each.
The businessman, who lives outside Dundalk with what the paper described as his ‘glamorous wife’, has been buying up properties and recently purchased more than 100 acres of land near Dublin.
According to The Sunday World, the couple are regularly spotted enjoying nights out and friends believe they have simply bucked the economic trend, having emerged unscathed despite owning retail businesses that have been hard hit by the recession.
However, ‘The Jackal’, is supposedly soon to be issued with a massive seven-figure demand from the Criminal Assets Bureau, who are trawling through his banking transactions and ‘company’ accounts.
It is understood they have linked him to major shipments of contraband cigarettes from as far back as 2008 and believe he may have been smuggling for up to ten years.
The Sunday World’s sources say he has held directorships on a number of legitimate companies which he uses as a front for his operation. But he has also hijacked VAT and registration details of perfectly innocent companies and used them to get his contraband through Irish ports.
It is understood that as part of their investigations, the CAB has contacted a number of retail stores around the country who had no idea that their details were being used to clear imported goods from Vietnam and other Asian countries.
Last year, the businessman lost a major consignment when Al Qaeda terrorists fired two rockets at the Asia Cosco cargo ship as it made its way along Egypt’s Suez Canal.
They were hoping to disrupt trade in the area and even released a video of the attack on the mother ship.
But instead, they blew apart ‘The Jackal’s’ lucrative business when investigators discovered the consignment of illicit cigarettes on the damaged ship and fitted it with a tracking device.
The cigarettes were transferred to a smaller vessel in Rotterdam, which docked in Dublin port. The Emergency Response Unit, the Organised Crime Unit, CAB and Customs watched as the container was loaded onto a truck and drove north towards Co Louth followed by a jeep.
The van was stopped at Castlebellingham and four men – three men in the jeep, along with the driver of the van – were arrested.
Although ‘The Jackal’ was not at the scene, a major probe into the consignment linked it back to him and he became a target of CAB.
He has been found to have links with, among others, Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy.
Read the full story here.