An operation to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco and alcohol in Luton has uncovered more than 33,000 illegal cigarettes, 27 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco and 524 litres of alcohol.
Twenty four officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), with support from Luton Trading Standards, the International Federation of Spirits Producers (IFSP), and two specialist tobacco dogs and their handlers from Wagtail UK, visited around 50 retail premises and a self-storage unit on 27 and 28 August.
The visits were part of HMRC’s Tobacco Taskforce activity, and led to tobacco and alcohol products being seized from 19 premises. They included:
• 33,600 cigarettes;
• 27.93 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco;
• 17.77 kilos of shish tobacco;
• 18.65 kilos of chewing tobacco;
• 389 bottles (291.75 litres) of wine;
• 232.6 litres of spirits.
It is estimated that about £22,000 of duty and VAT had been evaded.
Some of the spirits seized appear to be counterfeit bottles of Glen’s Vodka. The contents of the 52 bottles have not yet been tested, but rather than a clear liquid some are a yellow / brown colour, and may cause harm if ingested.
Speaking after the operation, Councillor Aslam Khan, for Trading Standards at Luton Borough Council, said: “This is the second time we have worked in partnership with HMRC on an operation like this. We want to send a clear message that all enforcement agencies will continue to work together, share information and take action against any trader found to be selling illicit goods in Luton.”
David Margree, assistant director, criminal investigation, 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 £2bn a year, and the sale of illicit alcohol which costs the UK around £1bn 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 Customs Hotline on 0800 595000.”