Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have seized five million duty free cigarettes and arrested five men after a raid at an industrial unit in Harlow, Essex.

HMRC was alerted to the goods after UK Border Force stopped an unaccompanied trailer which arrived at the Port of Tilbury from Sweden.

The trailer, which was supposed to contain machinery, was instead filled with millions of Winston cigarettes. The duty loss on the illicit cigarettes is thought to be around £1.1m.

Five men were arrested at the unit on suspicion of being involved in excise fraud. Two men aged 27 and 30 from the Ukraine and three men aged 24, 26 and 31 from Latvia were arrested, interviewed and have been bailed while the investigation continues.

Paul Barton, assistant director criminal investigation at HMRC, said: “Our activity sends out a clear message to those involved in this type of criminality. Attempts to import distribute and sell tobacco goods on which UK duty has not been paid are treated extremely seriously and we will relentlessly pursue those believed to be involved.

“You can report anyone you suspect may be selling illegal tobacco goods by calling our 24-hour Customs Hotline on 0800 595000.”