Interesting report in March 2018 about the Irish authorities closing down an illegal cigarette factory in a fairly remote part of Ireland. Jenkinstown, Co Louth has only one logistical advantage, it's a couple of minutes from the border with Northern Ireland.
This was an old, established operation that shipped its products to all parts of Ireland as well as the UK. When raided they had 40 tonnes of tobacco on hand and the ability to produce 250,000 cigarettes an hour (01).
And this is what they produced.
Rip-off Mayfair cigarette packs.
Illegal cigarette cartons using Mayfair branding.
It's a sensible choice; Mayfair is a budget cigarette, so not blended with expensive or aromatic tobacco. Essentially your Plain Jane Virginia with a few inexpensive additives mixed in to give it flavour.
However there's one thudding great problem with their packaging, it's pre-plain-pack! The UK went to plain packs in May of 2017, and Ireland in September 2017. Yes there was a one year grace period to allow old stock to be sold, however the tobacco companies were supplying plain packs for weeks before the deadline so they became the norm pretty well from day one following the changeover.
Within weeks anyone trying to sell these illegal cigarettes would have a problem trying to persuade people they were not stale old stock. And anyone who bought them would stand out in a crowd.
That in turn would result in the very obvious question of where you bought them and how much you paid. That would allow the authorities to find out who was selling them, then it would be a simple case of waiting for the next shipment and tracing that back, through faces or number plates, to who was distributing them. In turn that would lead to the exact location of the factory. Even then it took the Irish authorities the better part of 6 months to do just that.
Something went very wrong if the people behind the factory didn't get the intel that questions were being asked, nor people observed. My guess is they'd become both assumptive and complacent (we can flog anything to them and they'll still come back for more).
It goes way past arrogant and foolhardy: it was just plain stupid, and that's why their factory got raided and why about $160,000 (40 tonnes at $4 per kilogram) of tobacco was seized and destroyed. That together with tubes, packaging and the machinery, at a rough guess, comes to about $250,0000 - and that hurts.
We're not stupid, nor the authorities, nor the legitimate tobacco manufacturers. Get you act together - and get it right next time people.