More than 130,000 illicit cigarettes as well as large quantities of alcohol have been seized in a series of raids across Lincolnshire – including Grantham – by HM Customs and Excise.
The raids, carried out with support from Lincolnshire Trading Standards and Lincolnshire Police, took place in Grantham, Lincoln, Spalding and Boston on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Six tobacco dogs and their handlers helped officers uncover cigarettes hidden in various parts of the and self storage units.
In total, 36 premises were targeted with suspected illegal tobacco and alcohol products seized during 20 of the raids.
In Grantham, 5,820 cigarettes, six kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, 3,482 litres of beer and six litres of spirits were recovered, with an estimated £6,612 duty and VAT evaded.
But by far the biggest haul was at Lincoln, where officers seized 87,740 cigarettes (estimated £28,165 duty and VAT evaded), 23 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco (estimated £5,612 duty and VAT evaded), and 16.25 litres of spirits and wine (estimated £83 duty and VAT evaded), as well as one vehicle.
The Spalding raids too produced an enormous quantity of illict goods - 36,260 cigarettes (estimated £11,639 duty and VAT evaded), 1.4kg kilos of hand-rolling tobacco (estimated £342 duty and VAT evaded) and 12.6 litres of spirits (estimated £162 duty and VAT evaded), plus two vehicles.
Meanwhile, in Boston, 400 cigarettes (estimated £128 duty and VAT evaded), 11.8kg of shisha tobacco (estimated £1,127 duty and VAT evaded) and 67 bottles of spirits (estimated £644 duty and VAT evaded) were seized by officers.
Stuart Taylor, assistant director for the Fraud Investigation Service at 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.
“Tax fraud is not acceptable and we will tackle it head on. We are levelling the playing field for legitimate local businesses who cannot compete with their criminal competitors.
“We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
Andy Wright, principal trading standards officer at Lincolnshire County Council, added: “This is a clear example of partnership work at its very best. The result is a credit to the combined efforts of all the agencies involved who understand the impact that such illegal activity can have on the local community.
“This seizure sends a clear message that we will not tolerate the import or sale of counterfeit and illicit products in our county.”