Around 35 officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), with support from Staffordshire County Council Trading Standards and Burton Upon Trent Police Licensing team, visited 10 retail premises and self storage units on 3 September.
The visits, as part of HMRC’s Tobacco Taskforce activity, led to tobacco and alcohol products being seized from six premises. This included:
- 19,140 cigarettes, with £5,167.80 duty and VAT evaded
- 7.6 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, with £1,575.40 duty and VAT evaded
- 51.75 litres of alcohol, with £165.60 duty and VAT evaded
Stuart Taylor, 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 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.
“Some of the hiding places used by retailers to conceal these goods in Burton were very sophisticated. We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco or alcohol to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
Speaking after the operation, Staffordshire County Council's trading standards leader Gill Heath said:
"The sale of illicit tobacco and alcohol is a crime which damages communities and harms legitimate businesses and we will take action against traders who sell it. This operation demonstrates that we take this issue seriously and that effective working with our partners at HMRC, police and district councils is having results. We target our resources where we know the sale of illegal and sometimes dangerous tobacco and alcohol is going on. Now we can reinvest money recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act from criminal activity in Staffordshire to combat criminals. It is a priority for us to keep people safe and stopping the sale of illicit goods is supporting this."
Notes for editors
1. Photographs of goods seized are available on HMRC’s Flickr channel at www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk and from the “press and media” pages at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs
2. Six tobacco dogs and their handlers helped officers uncover cigarettes hidden in various parts of the shops.
3. Since 2000, the illicit market in cigarettes has more than halved. In the last two years, almost 3.3 billion cigarettes and over 800 tonnes of illicit hand-rolling tobacco have been seized and 593 criminals involved have been prosecuted.
4. HMRC can also levy civil penalties on anyone handling, using or supplying non-duty paid tobacco products. Penalties introduced in April 2010 range from 10 to 100% of the possible lost revenue.
5. HMRC’s Tobacco taskforce publicity works alongside existing compliance activity, taskforces, data collection and enforcement to raise awareness among those breaking the rules that HMRC is closing in on undeclared income. More information can be found at www.gov.uk/sortmytax.
6. Taskforces bring together various HMRC compliance and enforcement teams for intensive bursts of activity targeted at specific sectors and locations where there is evidence of high risk of tax evasion and fraud. HMRC has launched 70 taskforces since 2011. A further 30 are planned for the tax year 2014 to 2015.
7. Taskforces have been made possible by the Government’s £917 million spending review investment to tackle tax evasion, avoidance and fraud from the tax year 2011 to 2012, which aims to raise an additional £7 billion each year by the tax year 2014 to 2015.
8. Anyone with information regarding tobacco fraud is encouraged to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000 or via the website: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/reportingfraud/online.htm
9. 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.