Watch: Major illegal tobacco factory uncovered in Tyrone

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Three men arrested in Tyrone as part of a HM Revenue and Customs investigation into a suspected £110m tobacco fraud that also shut down a tobacco processing plant, have been released on bail pending further enquiries.

HMRC investigators, along with PSNI officers, searched nine addresses in Tyrone, Down and Armagh on Tuesday morning [February 3], whilst two simultaneous searches took place in Louth and Dublin with support from An Garda Síochána.

Pacemaker Press 3/2/2015 'Customs and Excise seized a Tobacco factory in Co Tyrone , Tones of Raw tobacco  had been found in houses during a major operation'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 3/2/2015 'Customs and Excise seized a Tobacco factory in Co Tyrone , Tones of Raw tobacco had been found in houses during a major operation'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

The Tyrone residence that was searched led to the arrests of the 25, 31 and 35-year-old men, whilst one million cigarettes, worth an estimated £250k were seized.

As well as the three men arrested in Tyrone, a man aged 52 and a women aged 47 were also arrested following searches at four properties in Down which yielded a further £20k cash.

The pair have now been released on bail.

At the four properties searched in Armagh - three residential and one business - 12 tonnes of unprocessed tobacco worth an estimated £2m, one million cigarettes worth an estimated £250k and £30k in cash were seized.

Three properties were searched in Louth, and two in Dublin.

These searches led to a further 334,000 cigarettes worth around €100,200 being seized.

The tobacco plant, 12 tonnes of raw tobacco, two million cigarettes and £50k in cash were seized during the operation in Northern Ireland.

Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation at HMRC, Mike Parkinson said: “The trade in illicit tobacco is unregulated and makes cheaper tobacco more readily available to the young and vulnerable.

“Tobacco fraud is a highly organised global crime which costs the UK £2b a year in lost taxes.

“Co-operation with our partners across the UK, Ireland and overseas is essential if we are to tackle this problem effectively.”