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Over 1 million cigarettes seized across Manchester

Press release -

Over 1 million cigarettes seized across Manchester

An operation to disrupt the sale and supply of suspected illegal tobacco and alcohol in Manchester and Bolton uncovered over one million cigarettes and over 74 litres of alcohol, all believed to be illicit.

Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and support agencies visited 50 retail premises and 12 storage units on Tuesday 6 and Wednesday 7 October.

The visits, as part of HMRC’s Tobacco Taskforce activity, led to suspected illegal tobacco and alcohol products being seized from 29 premises. This included:

  • 1,016,653 cigarettes, 73.60 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco and 52.36 kilos of shisha tobacco - with an estimated £267,000 duty and VAT evaded;
  • 74.25 litres of alcohol – with an estimated £1,900 in duty and VAT evaded.

Sandra Smith, 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 £2.1 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.

“We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco or alcohol to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”

HMRC were supported by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) in their work to tackle illicit tobacco and alcohol during this two day exercise.

Superintendent Andrea Jones of GMP’s Bolton Division said:

“We have provided support for these searches to our partners at HMRC and as a result large quantities of tobacco and cigarettes have been seized. I hope these searches and subsequent seizures will reassure the communities of Bolton that not only are the police ready to act on intelligence from the public but also our partner agencies.

“I would like to assure everybody that we will continue to work alongside our partners through Challenger Bolton to ensure that criminality of this nature will not go unpunished.”

HMRC is making enquires to determine what further civil or criminal action may be taken. HMRC officers also seized two vehicles used for the transport or storage of the seized goods and GMP made one arrest for a separate police offence. The estimated total UK duty and VAT evaded for the suspected illegal products is £268,900.

Notes for editors

1.Four tobacco dogs and their handler also assisted on this operation.

2.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.

3.HMRC can also levy civil penalties on anyone handling, using or supplying tobacco products on which UK duty has not been paid. Penalties introduced in April 2010 range from 10 to 100% of the possible lost revenue.

4.HMRC taskforces target specific high-risk sectors where there is a risk that some are not paying the tax they owe. Since Taskforces began in May 2011, over 120 taskforces have been launched, bringing in over £400m.

5.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. The teams visit traders to examine their records and carry out other investigations.

6.Anyone with information on 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

7.Follow HMRC’s Press Office on Twitter @HMRCpressoffice

8.HMRC's Flickr channel: www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk

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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.

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HMRC Press Office

Press contact 03000 585018

HMRC Regional Press Officer - North West

Press Officer for North West Lancashire, G. Manchester, Merseyside & Cheshire 03000 525 872

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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.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
100 Parliament St
SW1A 2BQ London