Eight men were arrested and 11 premises searched during a multi-agency operation in Manchester yesterday (24 February).
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers seized material in relation to suspected tax evasion, including 137,600 cigarettes, 73 kilos of tobacco, counterfeit cash, and four vehicles, during searches of nine retail, one domestic address and one storage container in the Strangeways, Cheetham Hill and Bury areas.
The HMRC-led operation included officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP), Manchester and Salford City Councils Trading Standards teams, Immigration Enforcement, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The enforcement activity involves investigations into a number of suspected offences, including tax evasion, smuggling, immigration and counterfeiting.
Mike Parkinson, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:
“HMRC has significant criminal and civil powers to disrupt criminality and tackle tax evasion on many levels. Sharing intelligence on suspected criminal activity with other agencies and working together is key to our enforcement work. Combined with the powers of our partners we are able to take effective action to ensure nobody is acting above the law.”
During the operation yesterday, officers from Immigration Enforcement also arrested six men for immigration offences. Trading Standards removed counterfeit goods worth estimated £2m from 11 premises. The MHRA seized 49,350 individual doses of unlicensed medicines and GMP seized two vans and issued several dispersal notices.
Rebekah Sutcliffe, Assistant Chief Constable, GMP, said:
“This is a great result and a fantastic example of what can be achieved through working closely with our partners in HMRC and Trading Standards. These practices have a far-reaching effect on people’s lives. The Strangeways area is one of the largest counterfeit goods suppliers in the UK and the sale of these products has a huge impact on local taxpayers and businesses, as well as potentially funding more serious and violent crime. Today we send a message that we will not allow people to profit from flooding the streets of our communities with counterfeit goods – it will not be tolerated.”
Councillor Nigel Murphy, executive member for neighbourhoods, Manchester City Council said:
“Counterfeiting is not a victimless crime and such goods are often poor quality or unsafe. Consumers are also completely unprotected with little chance of getting their money back and the illegal trade undermines and jeopardises legitimate traders. Operations such as this, working with partners at GMP and HMRC, are vital to get fake items off the street and I’d like to praise those involved."
Alastair Jeffrey, Head of Enforcement, MHRA, said:
“Selling medicines outside the authorised supply chain is a crime. Our advice is - never buy medicines from unapproved sellers as you have no idea where the products have come from, what they might contain or what effect they will have on your health. Criminals involved in supplying such products are only interested in taking your money. If you have any concerns about your health the best thing you can do is visit your GP and get a proper diagnosis and treatment.”
Paul Airlie, Head of Manchester Immigration Enforcement team, said:
“We are determined to catch those who seek to abuse the UK’s immigration system. This multi-agency operation resulted in the arrest of six immigration offenders at three businesses in Manchester. None of the men had the right to work in this country. The businesses where they were found were issued with notices warning that they face potential penalties of up to £20,000 per illegal worker unless the employer can demonstrate that appropriate right to work document checks were carried out, such as seeing a passport or Home Office document. Using illegal labour is not a victimless crime. It cheats the taxpayer, undercuts businesses who ply an honest trade and deprives legitimate job seekers of employment opportunities.”
Matt Cope, Deputy Director IP Enforcement, IPO, said:
"We are pleased to be working with colleagues in Manchester to disrupt criminal activities. Tackling counterfeits requires a coordinated response from government, enforcement agencies and businesses. Building these partnerships in Manchester is a priority for us, as set out in our recent report ‘Counting the Cost’, and we look forward to our continued collaboration.”
Investigations into the arrests and seizures are continuing.
Notes for editors
1.Two men, aged 30 and 62, were arrested by HMRC on suspicion of tax evasion and have been released on bail pending further enquiries.
2.Nine retail units in the Strangeways area, one storage container in Cheetham Hill and four vehicles were searched by HMRC. One domestic address was also searched in the Bury area following the arrests. HMRC also seized £3,500 in cash (including £2,000 counterfeit notes), and cannabis.
3.One tobacco and two medicines detector dogs were used on this operation.
4.Immigration Enforcement is an operational directorate within the Home Office responsible for enforcing immigration. Three of the men arrested have been detained pending their removal from the UK and three have been granted temporary release while their cases are progressed. They will have to report regularly to the Home Office during this time.
5.Trading Standards filled two 40ft containers with the counterfeit goods seized on the operation. The goods seized had an estimated normal retail value of £2 million. The counterfeit items included clothing, footwear, headphones, perfume, handbags and watches.
6.Suspected crime can be reported to the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.
7.Photographs are available at HMRC’s Flickr site www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk
8.Follow HMRC’s press office on Twitter @HMRCpressoffice
Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.
HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.