Illegal cigarettes and spirits haul in joint operation

  |  Published: Feb 26th 2015
Cigarettes haul: Buckinghamshire Trading Standards Officer Lawrence Eldridge checks in the seized cigarettes and tobacco

Illegal cigarettes, tobacco and spirits were seized in a joint operation between Buckinghamshire Trading Standards and HM Revenue and Customs yesterday (Tuesday, February 24).

The haul of 539 packs of cigarettes and 1,850 grams of tobacco, with an estimated market value of almost £4,000, was seized from 11 small convenience shops in High Wycombe. The 200 litres of vodka and whisky seized are estimated to be worth more than £3,000. In total around £6,000 of revenue appears to have been evaded.

Some of the tobacco haul, hidden from view in stores, was flushed out by detection sniffer dogs Scamp and Phoebe, from Pembrokeshire specialists BWY Canine.

The tobacco and cigarettes bear foreign and English labels without 'Duty Paid' stamps, and are thought to be either counterfeit or imported illegally. Checks on the spirits, none of which appeared to have 'Duty Paid' labels, will be made over the next few days.

Buckinghamshire County Council Trading Standards officers will work with HMRC in the coming weeks to decide on further action, which could lead to prosecution.

Trading Standards Officer Lawrence Eldridge said the operation was one of a number of visits officers had made to shops across the county in the past year, and is the biggest tobacco and alcohol seizure to date as part of this joint working.

'We can't stress enough the risks to the public of illegal tobacco and alcohol, and we want to make sure we're doing all we can to protect them,' said Lawrence. 'Past analysis of counterfeit tobacco products has shown they can contain dangerous ingredients such as cyanide, and even plastic, sand, insects and rat droppings.'

Peter Millroy, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: 'The sale of illegal tobacco and alcohol will not be tolerated by us or our partner agencies. Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2.1 billion a year, and the sale of illicit alcohol which costs the UK around £1 billion per year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.'
Anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco or alcohol should contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.

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