Over 16.5million illegal cigarettes seized in Castleton

Date published: 22 December 2011

Over 16.5million illegal cigarettes - the largest single detection in the North West region this year – have been seized in Castleton.

The cigarettes, worth an estimated £3.8 million in evaded duty and VAT, were uncovered at an industrial unit by HM Revenue and Customs Officers on Monday (19 December).

The cigarettes were imported as ‘fruit’ with a large quantity of oranges and kiwifruits used as a ‘cover load’ in an attempt to conceal the smuggled tobacco.

Two men, aged 49 and 35, from Greater Manchester and one man, 43, from South Wales were arrested on suspicion of excise fraud and bailed until March 2012. Three vehicles were also seized plus cash estimated to be £75,000.

HMRC Assistant Director, Criminal Investigations, Mike O’Grady said: “Tobacco smuggling on this scale isn’t about cheap cigarettes; it is organised fraud on a global scale, encouraging and supporting criminality within our communities, and robbing taxpayers of millions each year in unpaid duty and VAT. HMRC teams operate across the North West to disrupt this illicit trade, which has a devastating impact on legitimate retailers having to compete against crime on this scale, particularly at Christmas, one of the busiest times of year.

“Anyone with information about the storage or sale of illegal tobacco in their area should contact the Customs’ hotline on 0800 59 5000.”

Enquiries into this huge cigarette seizure and the criminals involved continue.

The seized cigarettes will be recycled as fuel pellets and used to fuel the national electricity grid.

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