Illicit tobacco and alcohol has been seized in Burton Upon Trent and Staffordshire following visits by around 35 officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), with support from Staffordshire County Council Trading Standards and Burton Upon Trent Police Licensing team. They visited 10 retail premises and self storage units on September 3.
On the same day an HMRC team also visited nine premises in Derby, with support from Derby City Council and Derbyshire Police Licensing teams.
The visits were part of HMRC’s Tobacco Taskforce activity, and led to tobacco and alcohol products being seized from 13 premises altogether. This included: 19,140 cigarettes, with £5,167.80 duty and VAT evaded; 7.6 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, with £1,575.40 duty and VAT evaded; 51.75 litres of alcohol, with £165.60 duty and VAT evaded, from the Burton and Staffordshire area. Meanwhile the Derby visits resulted in the seizure from seven premises of 21,880 cigarettes, with £5,907 duty and VAT evaded; and19 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, with £3,938 duty and VAT evaded.
Stuart Taylor, 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 £2 billion a year, and the sale of illicit alcohol which costs the UK around £1 billion per year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.
“Some of the hiding places used by retailers to conceal these goods were very sophisticated. We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco or alcohol to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards leader Gill Heath said: "The sale of illicit tobacco and alcohol is a crime which damages communities and harms legitimate businesses and we will take action against traders who sell it. This operation demonstrates that we take this issue seriously and that effective working with our partners at HMRC, police and district councils is having results. We target our resources where we know the sale of illegal and sometimes dangerous tobacco and alcohol is going on. Now we can reinvest money recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act from criminal activity in Staffordshire to combat criminals. It is a priority for us to keep people safe and stopping the sale of illicit goods is supporting this."
Councillor Martin Rawson, Deputy Leader of Derby City Council and Cabinet Member for Planning, Environment and Regeneration said: "These criminals put the health of people in Derby at risk and damage local businesses and retailers. We are determined to protect the health and safety of our city’s residents and therefore, we are committed to any action that rids our streets of counterfeit and illegal tobacco products."