Five men have been arrested in Liverpool during raids linked to a suspected £100,000 tax fraud involving smuggled cigarettes, an illegal vodka factory and tax credits fraud.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers visited several addresses across Liverpool and Sefton, on Tuesday October 3 as part of an investigation into previous seizures of illicit cigarettes and fake vodka in the region, as well as associated money laundering.
Officers also discovered and dismantled a fake vodka bottling plant in July this year in Aintree.
During the operation HMRC officers:
• searched premises in Formby, Knotty Ash, Mossley Hill, Walton, and Woolton;
• arrested five men aged 39, 44, 47, 48 and 55; and
• discovered a suspected amphetamine laboratory at one address.
Angela McCalmon, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “We will continue to act to disrupt suspected criminal activity. This investigation is still at an early stage but shows the spectrum of suspected crimes that can be uncovered in one enquiry. HMRC will work closely with our partners to ensure there is no further risk to public health or the public purse from these suspected activities.
“Dealing in illicit tobacco and alcohol harms honest businesses and steals money destined for public services. It is important that anyone in the area with information about the illegal trade in tobacco or alcohol reports it to our Hotline on 0800 788887.”
In March 2017, HMRC seized 199,780 suspected counterfeit Mayfair King cigarettes in the Aintree area, which was worth £56,138.68 in evaded Excise Duty and VAT.
In July 2017, a fake vodka bottling plant in Aintree was dismantled and bottles labelled as No 01 Imperial Vodka Blue were seized. It was worth an estimated £45,000 in unpaid Excise Duty.
Subsequent chemical tests found the alcohol, although not toxic, contained compounds that should not be present in vodka.
Prior to the arrests, HMRC officers also uncovered a suspected substantial tax credit fraud.
HMRC called in Merseyside Police and Merseyside Fire Brigade to deal with the chemicals at the suspected drugs factory.