An operation to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco and alcohol across north Wales has uncovered more than 440,000 cigarettes, 169 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco and 2,700 litres of alcohol, all believed to be illicit.
Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), with support from North Wales Police, UK Border Agency, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd and Wrexham Trading Standards, visited 59 retail premises and self-storage units between October 24-26.
The visits, as part of HMRC’s Tobacco Taskforce activity, led to suspected illegal tobacco and alcohol products being seized from 11 premises. This included:
• 446,664 cigarettes, with an estimated £155,886 duty and VAT evaded;
• 169.85 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, with an estimated £46,709 duty and VAT evaded; and
• 2,703.35 litres of alcohol, with an estimated £6,615 duty and VAT evaded.
John Cooper, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, 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 £2.5bn a year, and the sale of illicit alcohol which costs the UK around £1.3bn per year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.
“We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco or alcohol to contact the Fraud Hotline 0800 788887.”
In addition to the HMRC tobacco and alcohol seizures, quantities of amphetamines, cocaine, cannabis, cannabis cookies, a Samurai sword and a vehicle used to transport suspected illegal goods, were also seized.
Chief inspector, Dave Jolly, North Wales Police, said: “As a result of the activity last week we have denied criminals the opportunity to evade duty and benefit financially at the expense of the residents of North Wales. Our actions will be on-going and reinforce the commitment from the PCC to make North Wales a safer place.”
Richard Powell, chair of Trading Standards North Wales, said: “The widespread availability of cheap, illegal tobacco in our communities poses a major threat to health. Around 11,000 children become addicted in Wales every year (that’s a classroom full each day) before they are even old enough to be legally sold tobacco.
“The results achieved in this joint agency operation, led by HMRC, are incredibly encouraging and sends a clear message that we are committed to working together to tackle illegal tobacco and alcohol.”