Thousands of cigarettes seized after HMRC officers raid Ipswich stores
- Credit: HMRC
Thousands of cigarettes have been seized as part of a series of raids at Ipswich stores to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco.
Officers from HMRC, Suffolk Trading Standards and Eastern Region Special Operations Unit visited a number of stores in the town on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
The visits, which were part of HMRC’s Tobacco Taskforce activity in Ipswich and Lowestoft, led to suspected illegal tobacco being seized from five premises.
A total of 13,180 cigarettes and 14.25kg of hand-rolling tobacco were taken in the raids, worth an estimated £11,500 in duty.
Some of the cigarettes had been hidden in the stores, including behind a fireplace and inside a boiler.
Ian Woolston, assistant director of the fraud Investigation Service at 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 £2.3billion a year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.
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"We work closely with the police, trading standards, local authorities and international law enforcement, and have cut by a third the market in illicit cigarettes since 2000 and halved the hand-rolling tobacco market over the same period.
"We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to report it online or call the Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887."
Andrew Reid, cabinet member for public health, public protection and communities at Suffolk County Council, added: "Illegal tobacco trading is far from being a victimless crime. It carries significant health risks, undermines the reduction of smoking and creates a cheap source for children and young people.
"In addition, it affects the trade of legitimate retailers and also deprives our vital public services of funding through loss of tax revenue.
"We remain committed to working collaboratively with HMRC, the police and other partners to protect consumers across Suffolk, and I am delighted that our Trading Standards officers provided invaluable intel to help make this particular operation such a success."