An operation to disrupt the sale and supply of suspected illegal tobacco and alcohol in Manchester and Bolton uncovered over one million cigarettes and over 74 litres of alcohol, all believed to be illicit.

Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and support agencies visited 50 retail premises and 12 storage units on Tuesday 6 and Wednesday 7 October.

The visits, as part of HMRC’s Tobacco Taskforce activity, led to suspected illegal tobacco and alcohol products being seized from 29 premises. This included:

• 1,016,653 cigarettes, 73.60 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco and 52.36 kilos of shisha tobacco - with an estimated £267,000 duty and VAT evaded;

• 74.25 litres of alcohol – with an estimated £1,900 in duty and VAT evaded.

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 clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2.1bn 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.”

HMRC was supported by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) in its work to tackle illicit tobacco and alcohol during the two-day exercise.

Superintendent Andrea Jones of GMP’s Bolton Division said: “We have provided support for these searches to our partners at HMRC and as a result large quantities of tobacco and cigarettes have been seized. I hope these searches and subsequent seizures will reassure the communities of Bolton that not only are the police ready to act on intelligence from the public but also our partner agencies.

“I would like to assure everybody that we will continue to work alongside our partners through Challenger Bolton to ensure that criminality of this nature will not go unpunished.”

HMRC is making enquires to determine what further civil or criminal action may be taken. HMRC officers also seized two vehicles used for the transport or storage of the seized goods and GMP made one arrest for a separate police offence. The estimated total UK duty and VAT evaded for the suspected illegal products is £268,900.