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Shared on behalf of HM Revenue & Customs - Seizure of illegal tobacco in Herefordshire

An operation to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco in Hereford and Ross-on-Wye has uncovered more than 21,000 cigarettes and 8.7 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, all believed to be illicit.

Around 20 officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), with support from West Mercia Police, Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service and Herefordshire Council visited three shops on Tuesday, January 30.

At one of the shops officers discovered cigarettes inside a hidden compartment that was fitted with an electro-magnetic lock and operated by a key fob.

The visits, part of HMRC's Tobacco Taskforce activity, led to suspected illegal tobacco products being seized from all three premises. This included:

•    21,000 cigarettes, with an estimated £6,085.77 duty and VAT evaded
•    8.7 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, with an estimated £2,295 duty and VAT evaded
•    £1,600 seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act

Richard Young, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

"The sale of illegal tobacco 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 £2.5 billion a year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.

"We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to contact our fraud hotline on 0800 788 887 or report it online."

All three shop owners were interviewed by HMRC officers and investigations are ongoing.

Sergeant Duncan Reynolds, of West Mercia Police, said: "Herefordshire's Multi Agency Targeted Enforcement Strategy, will continue to provide joined up working to target those who seek to profit through criminality and exploit vulnerable people.  
 
"We are continually building up our intelligence picture to identify those individuals and businesses who are operating outside of the law and a number of future enforcement operations are planned.
 
"Partner agencies within the MATE strategy include West Mercia Police, Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, Home Office Immigration, Herefordshire Council Trading Standards, Environmental Health Housing Enforcement and HM Revenue and Customs."

Herefordshire Council's Principal Trading Standards Officer, Tim Thorne, said: "We will continue to work with partner agencies to tackle serious criminals and protect honest local business and consumers.

"Much of the tobacco we find is counterfeit, but has foreign labelling to dupe smokers into believing it is a genuine smuggled product when it is not. If you buy these cigarettes you are being conned."

Information about any type of tax fraud can be reported to HMRC online at www.gov.uk/report-an-unregistered-trader-or-business.

Shared at: 4pm, Friday 2 February 2018, by Kieren Bodill, Corporate Communications

Notes for editors

1.    A tobacco dog and their handler helped officers uncover cigarettes hidden in various parts of the shops. Two of the shops were in Hereford and the third was in Ross-on-Wye

2.    Since 2000, we have reduced the illicit market in cigarettes by more than a third. In the last two years alone, over 3.5 billion illicit cigarettes and almost 600 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco have been seized resulting in 848 prosecutions.

3.    HMRC can also levy civil penalties on anyone handling, using or supplying non-duty paid tobacco products.

4.    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

5.    Follow HMRC's Press Office on Twitter @HMRCpressoffice

Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office

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Nick McCarthy: Tel: 03000 589 546  - Email:  nick.mccarthy@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk

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Website    www.hmrc.gov.uk

 

Published 02/02/18