More than one million suspected illicit cigarettes have been seized during an operation to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco in Birmingham and Smethwick.
Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), supported by Birmingham City Councilâ€™s Trading Standards team and Border Force, visited 22 retail premises and 17 self-storage units last week (21 and 22 January).
The visits led to the seizure of more than one million cigarettes from 11 retail premises, including 632,000 from a self-storage unit in Birmingham and 297,000 cigarettes from a storage facility in Wednesbury. Cash totalling Â£12,000 and 23 kilos of tobacco were also seized from locations across the area. The total duty and VAT evaded on the cigarettes and tobacco is Â£260,000.
Colin Booker, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: â€œThe sale of illegal tobacco and cigarettes will not be tolerated by us or our partner agencies, and our activity last week has sent out a clear message to those who indulge in this type of criminality.
â€œDisrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around Â£2 billion a year, and the sale of illicit alcohol which costs the UK around Â£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.â€
Councillor Barbara Dring, Chair of Birmingham City Councilâ€™s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: Â â€œThe raids carried out across Birmingham by HMRC, working in partnership with our Trading Standards officers, have successfully taken 632,000 illicit cigarettes and 23 kilos of illicit tobacco out of circulation.
â€œThose involved in dealing in illegal tobacco may be encouraging people, including children to smoke by providing a cheap source. This activity also brings crime into our neighbourhoods, which is why it is important to clamp down on it.Â This also has an impact on those businesses that are trading legally.
â€œDetection dogs can find tobacco and cigarettes even if hidden in the most unlikely places, so offenders who choose to deal in these illegal products need to know they will face the consequences of selling them.â€
Investigations into the seizures are continuing.
Notes for editors:
- Since 2000, the illicit market in cigarettes has more than halved.Â 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.
- HMRC can also levy civil penalties on anyone handling, using or supplying non-duty-paid tobacco or alcohol products. Penalties introduced in April 2010 range from 10 to 100% of the possible lost revenue.
- 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
- Follow HMRCâ€™s Press Office on Twitter @HMRCpressoffice
- HMRCâ€™s Flickr channel: www.flickr.com/hmrcgov.uk
Issued by HM Revenue & Customs
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