Investigations are under way into a partnership between the Real IRA and a big-time cigarette smuggling ring in the U.S.
U.S. and Irish authorities are looking into the involvement of Irish dissident republicans in a major smuggling ring led by Roman Vidal, 57, of Culter Bay, Florida, that bases its illegal activity in the port of Miami.
It is believed that Vidal and his gang import smuggled cigarettes from Panama into Miami by hiding them under wood flooring in ships, and subsequently shipping the millions of dollars worth of illegal cigarettes to criminal gangs in Ireland, Spain and other European countries.
Federal prosecutors say the Real IRA is one of the chief organizations benefiting from the smuggling by passing the cigarettes on to the European black market.
An investigation into the matter was launched back in February 2006 after a mole leaked information about the smuggling ring to immigration and customs enforcement officials in Miami. Since then, Vidal’s business has been closely watched.
Reports say they discovered that Vidal shipped 7.3 million cigarettes from Panama to Miami, and then off to Dublin. His contacts in Ireland’s capital skipped the $2.1 million in tax payments and forked over just $2,000 for the cargo. Similar large-scale smuggling schemes have occurred since.
Vidal has since been charged with four counts of federal wire and mail fraud, and has pleaded not guilty. He is currently under house arrest in Florida.