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Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Roman Vidal, age 57, allegedly smuggled millions of dollars' worth of black-market cigarettes through the Port of Miami on behalf of European gangs

21:03 |

Roman Vidal, age 57, allegedly smuggled millions of dollars' worth of black-market cigarettes through the Port of Miami on behalf of European gangs — including the Real IRA, which claimed responsibility for the March 7 attack on four soldiers waiting for a pizza delivery.

The brutal killings — which included execution shots to wounded victims lying on the ground — threaten to derail the peace process in Northern Ireland, with one Protestant leader warning it might signal a return to the "bad old days where people are being killed in open-air gun attacks."
Vidal fronted a freight company that imported millions of cigarettes from Panama, hid them under wood flooring and insulation in freighters at the Port of Miami, and then sent them to gangs in Dublin, according to the complaint. He has been charged with four counts of federal wire and mail fraud.In February 2006, an informant tipped off Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Miami to Vidal's scheme, and agents began watching Vidal's business and checking his shipments.They found that the previous December, Vidal had shipped 7.3 million cigarettes from Panama to Miami, purchased wood flooring at a local hardware store, and then covered the shipment with floorboards. When the cargo arrived in Dublin, Vidal's Irish contacts paid only $2,900 in tariffs and pocketed the $2.1 million they avoided in taxes.Vidal pulled an identical scheme last February, ICE agents say, shipping to the UK about 6 million Panamanian cigarettes hidden under building insulation.As agents dug into Vidal's illegal enterprise, they learned he worked for "a criminal organization that has associates operating in Spain, Ireland, and other European countries as well as in the Southern District of Florida," according to the criminal complaint.
Evidence indicates some of these associates were connected to the Real IRA.Vidal, who has pleaded not guilty and has been released on house arrest, could not be reached for comment.

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