Up in smoke | 

Bounty put on head of £1.2m cigs heist haulier after he double-crossed Polish gang

“A few groups have been contacted, including the Real IRA, and offered £100,000 in cash to find this driver"

VALUABLE: Cigarette smuggling is a big-money industry

Patricia Devlin

A six-figure “bounty” has been placed on the head of an Ulster lorry driver after he was part of a criminal double-cross which left a Polish cigarette smuggling gang £1.2million out of pocket.

The Sunday World can reveal the haulier is currently in hiding after the back-stabbing heist which saw him make off with a consignment of illicit fags he’d been hired to transport and drop off close to the border.

The middle-aged driver – who is known to police – then handed the 800-carton cig load over to a Co Tyrone-based gang for an eye-watering reward of £500,000.

The incident happened just two weeks ago after the lorry man, along with a Polish gang member, picked the counterfeit cig cache at Dublin docks.

The load was then driven to a secluded yard outside the small Co Monaghan village of Clontibret, where the fags were to be moved into another container and taken across the border for transport to the UK.

But the deal went up in smoke when a masked gang sped into the yard and forced the Pole gangster into their van.

He was held hostage while the illegal cigarettes were driven across the border and placed into the hands of a gang linked to a criminal brother duo who have serious convictions for guns and smuggling.

Dublim Port. Photo: Niall Carsonl/PA

The double cross has left the dangerous Polish gang – who have been smuggling cigarettes into the UK for years – seething.

Sources say they have already approached dissident republicans and other Irish organized crime groups £100,000 in cash to whack the lorry driver involved.

“Brexit has f***** everything up so all the dodgy stuff is coming through Ireland now and the going through the north to get into the UK,” a well-placed source said.

“To get a container into the UK now, the paperwork is atrocious. Everything is being checked. So, these guys, who are well known Polish across the water, had been doing it EU to EU... bringing their fags in via Dublin and getting this lorry driver to transport them.

“And they had a good thing going, you are talking a huge haul every couple of weeks from January.

“They aren’t stupid and made sure to send at least one gang member over to make sure the load was transported successfully.

“However, on this occasion when the driver and the Polish guy pulled up to the shed, a van speeded (sic) in with a number of masked men.

“They took the Pole out of the lorry and put him in the back of the van where he stayed for a couple of hours while the lorry driver drove across the border with the cigarette stash.

“It appears that this driver, who is known for pulling a few fly moves in the past, had tipped off a well-known criminal in east Tyrone about the secret smuggling trips.

“They then concocted a plan to relieve the Poles of this stash and offered this guy six figures to make off with them on the lorry.

“The gang saw it as a calculated risk. These were Polish fellas based in the UK, who have no pull in Ireland.

“They are only using Ireland as a staging ground to get into the UK.”

The source said that at least one dissident republican gang has been contacted by the infuriated Polish gang who have vowed to exact revenge for the devious double cross.

“These boxes would have cost them €700 a box, so they are now down over €560,000. They aren’t going to let this slide.

“A few groups have been contacted, including the Real IRA, and offered £100,000 in cash to find this driver.

“Just because they are not based in Ireland, doesn’t mean they won’t come to Ireland. They are down a £1.2 million consignment. One said that it might taken them six months or a year, but they will find him.”

The Sunday World understands the Tyrone gang behind the inter-criminal fag heist has links to convicted gun criminal Martin Campbell.

Campbell, from Blackwatertown just outside Dungannon, was jailed in 2013 in England after police raided a house he was residing in and found two guns and ammunition and scope with 16 rounds of .222 ammunition and a 9mm Baretta pistol and magazine with 12 9mm rounds of ammunition from his Chesire home.

Detectives investigating the case were able to forensically link the weapons to Campbell by DNA. They also found he had researched them on his laptop computer and mobile phone.

He was jailed for five years before he returned to Northern Ireland.

His brother, Kevin ‘Tin Tin’ Campbell, is also well known in criminal circles and was once ordered to hand over £800,000 after he was convicted of a red diesel plot.

‘Tin Tin’ had been jailed for three years in 2005 by a judge at Liverpool Crown Court after admitting fraud and money laundering charges,

In 2008, a judge ruled that Campbell, then 32, had hidden assets and ordered him to hand over £813,913 within 12 months or return to jail for a further three years.

Judge David Swift also ruled that Kevin Campbell, of Athboy Lane, Blackwatertown, Dungannon, had benefited from his criminal activity by £1.4 million.

Kevin Campbell, described as one of the two main principals in the fraud, denied having any realiseable assets. But a prosecuting lawyer successfully argued that he had hidden assets.

He and others, including four Northern Ireland men, had been involved in a 10-month plot to evade paying £1.4 million duty on diesel.

The fraud came to an end in August 2002 when customs officers interrupted an attempt to deliver 30,000 litres of fuel oil to a service station in Herefordshire.

The lorry contained an illegal load of rebated kerosene which would have been sold to unsuspecting motorists as ordinary road diesel.

Kevin Campbell and fellow businessman Thomas McCague, from Rosemount Avenue in Armagh, who was also jailed after the trial, were said to have plotted the fraud together.

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