An operation to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco in Peterborough has recovered more than 145,000 illegal cigarettes and 24 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco.

Around 50 officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), with support from Peterborough Trading Standards, Wagtail UK and Cambridgeshire Police, visited around 30 retail premises suspected of selling or storing duty free tobacco goods on Thursday July 3 and Friday July 4.

Investigators visited the retail outlets across the city as part of HMRC’s Tobacco Taskforce activity, seizing tobacco products from 12 premises. Officers seized:

• 146,105 cigarettes, with £44,854 duty and VAT evaded

• 24 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, with £5,664 duty and VAT evaded

Paul Barton, 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 market, which costs the UK around £2 billion a 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 Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”

Seven shop owners are due to attend Thorpe Wood Police Station for interview under caution by HMRC officers later this month.

Peter Stonely of Peterborough Trading Standards said: “Those involved in the distribution of illegal tobacco may be encouraging people, including children, to smoke by providing a cheap source of unregulated cigarettes. Offenders need to know they will face consequences if they choose to deal in these illegal products. We will continue to work in partnership to protect consumers and retailers.”