An operation to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco and alcohol in West Yorkshire uncovered more than 132,000 cigarettes, 49 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco and 52 litres of alcohol, all believed to be illicit.
Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) visited 37 retail premises across Leeds, Bradford and Dewsbury on Wednesday 26 October and Thursday 27 October.
The visits, as part of HMRC’s Tobacco Taskforce activity, led to suspected illegal tobacco and alcohol products being seized from 22 premises. This included:
• 132,550 cigarettes, with an estimated £33,600.00 duty evaded;
• 49.85 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, with an estimated £9,875.00 duty evaded;
• 20.40 kilos of shisha, with an estimated £2,119.76 duty evaded; and
• 52.9 litres of alcohol, with an estimated £585.29 duty evaded.
During the searches, officers uncovered a total of 15 concealed compartments used to store illicit tobacco and conducted on-site interviews with 19 people.
In Bradford, a male shop worker fled the scene as HMRC began an inspection, leaving officers to secure the shop on their departure. Also in Bradford, a male scaled a wall at the rear of a shop, dumping bags containing cigarettes as he ran.
Elsewhere, a retailer in the city was referred to West Yorkshire Police Licensing after he was found to be selling alcohol without a licence when HMRC seized 26 litres of spirits.
And in Dewsbury, 7,800 cigarettes and a small quantity of hand-rolling tobacco were found in a caravan belonging to the owner of shop where 7,990 cigarettes were also seized.
A number of individuals are continuing to assist HMRC with their enquiries and will be further interviewed in due course.
Sandra Smith, 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 clamp down 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.”