Four men from London have been arrested on suspicion of tobacco smuggling after an operation to disrupt the illegal trade yesterday.
Around 60 officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), working with Southwark Council Trading Standards officers, visited ten residential and business premises in Bermondsey and Crawley, where the arrests took place.
Around £20,000 in cash, 200,000 cigarettes, 80kgs of hand-rolling tobacco and three vehicles were seized during the operation. The estimated revenue loss of the seized tobacco is around £80,000.
Anthony Swarbrick, assistant director, Criminal Investigation, 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 over £2 billion a year in stolen revenue. This is theft from the taxpayer and money that should be funding our public services.
“We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco or alcohol to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
Councillor Barrie Hargrove, cabinet member for public health, parks and leisure said:
“This operation has been a successful partnership between Southwark Council, HMRC and the police in the fight against illegal tobacco. Together, we’ve been able to disrupt a major illegal tobacco network which has damaging effects for our local communities.”
The four men have been interviewed under caution by HMRC and bailed until September 2015.