A man has been arrested after 1.37 million suspected smuggled cigarettes were seized by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in Manchester on November 19.

HMRC officers, working in partnership with the North West Motorway Police and Greater Manchester Police, stopped a van on the westbound M602. It contained the foreign Pect brand cigarettes.

This is not a brand found in the UK and HMRC said the scale of the seizure suggests it could be a commercial attempt to evade UK Excise Duty of approximately £331,000.

The man, aged 63, from the West Midlands has been arrested and interviewed under caution at Swinton Police Station by HMRC investigators. He has been bailed until February 2015, pending further enquiries into the seizure. The vehicle has also been seized by HMRC.

Sandra Smith, assistant director, criminal investigation, HMRC, said: “The transport, storage or 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 tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2.1bn a year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.

“We urge anyone with information about the commercial trading of smuggled goods and the associated tax evasion in the north west region to contact us on 0800 595000.”