Smuggler pleads guilty to moving 27 million smokes

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A Miami man pleaded guilty Friday in the U.S. Southern District Court of Florida in a cigarette smuggling case with ties to the Real Irish Republican Army, a Northern Ireland militant group that uses terrorist tactics.

Roman Vidal, 57, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud in connection with four shipments of cigarettes, totaling 27 million, sent from Panama, through the Port of Miami, and on to buyers in Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland between 2001 and 2008.

Vidal avoided paying more than $6.5 million in customs and tax duties by hiding the smuggled cigarettes in flooring material, yarn, and building insulation.

A Center for Public Integrity investigation detailed how terrorist organizations around the world rely increasingly on tobacco smuggling to finance operations.

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