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Five million illegal cigarettes seized in Essex

Press release   •   May 23, 2014 16:40 BST

Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) seized five million duty free cigarettes and arrested five men after a raid at an industrial unit in Harlow, Essex, on Wednesday (21 May 2014).

HMRC was alerted to the goods after UK Border Force stopped an unaccompanied trailer which arrived at the Port of Tilbury from Sweden on 20 May 2014.

The trailer, which was supposed to contain machinery, was instead filled with millions of Winston cigarettes. The duty loss on the illicit cigarettes is thought to be around £1.1 million.

Paul Barton, Assistant Director Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:

“Our activity sends out a clear message to those involved in this type of criminality. Attempts to import distribute and sell tobacco goods on which UK duty has not been paid are treated extremely seriously and we will relentlessly pursue those believed to be involved.

“You can report anyone you suspect may be selling illegal tobacco goods by calling our 24-hour Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”

Five men were arrested at the unit on suspicion of being involved in excise fraud.

We cannot provide any further information at this stage as the investigation is continuing.

Two men aged 27 and 30 from the Ukraine and three men aged 24, 26 and 31 from Latvia were arrested, interviewed and have been bailed.

Notes to Editors

1.  HMRC’s flickr site 

2.  Follow us on Twitter @HMRCgovUK

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.