A major operation this week which saw 36 shops raided in Lincolnshire has recovered over 130,000 cigarettes, 42 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco and 3,570 litres of beer, wine and spirits, all believed to be illicit.
Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), with support from Lincolnshire Trading Standards and Lincolnshire Police, visited the retail premises on Tuesday, September 27 and Wednesday, September 28.
The visits, part of HMRC’s multi-agency activity, led to suspected illegal tobacco and alcohol products being seized from 20 premises in Lincoln, Spalding, Grantham and Boston. This included:
- 87,740 cigarettes, with an estimated £28,165 duty and VAT evaded
- 23 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, with an estimated £5,612 duty and VAT evaded
- 16.25 litres of spirits and wine, with an estimated £83 duty and VAT evaded
- One vehicle seized
- 36,260 cigarettes, with an estimated £11,639 duty and VAT evaded
- 1.4kg kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, with an estimated £342 duty and VAT evaded
- 12.6 litres of spirits, with an estimated £162 duty and VAT evaded
- Two vehicles seized
- 5,820 cigarettes, with an estimated £1,868 duty and VAT evaded
- six kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, with an estimated £1,464 duty and VAT evaded
- 3,482 litres of beer and six litres of spirits, with an estimated £3,280 duty and VAT evaded
- 400 cigarettes, with an estimated £128 duty and VAT evaded
- 11.8kg of shisha tobacco, with an estimated £1,127 duty and VAT evaded
- 67 bottles of spirits, with an estimated £644 duty and VAT evaded
Six tobacco dogs and their handlers also helped officers uncover cigarettes hidden in various parts of the shops and self storage units.
Stuart Taylor, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, 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 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.
“Tax fraud is not acceptable and we will tackle it head on. We are levelling the playing field for legitimate local businesses who cannot compete with their criminal competitors.
“We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
Andy Wright, Principal Trading Standards Officer at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “This is a clear example of partnership work at its very best. The result is a credit to the combined efforts of all the agencies involved who understand the impact that such illegal activity can have on the local community.
“This seizure sends a clear message that we will not tolerate the import or sale of counterfeit and illicit products in our county.”