Three men have been arrested in connection with a suspected £12m tobacco fraud as part of an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

HMRC officers, assisted by Essex Police, raided three private addresses in the Nazeing area of Essex early on January 27, where they seized documents, computers and mobile phones.

The men were interviewed by HMRC and have been released on bail until 27 April. Investigations into the fraud are continuing.

Peter Millroy, assistant director, criminal investigation, HMRC, said: “Our activity sends out a clear message to those involved in this type of criminality. Any attempt to import, distribute or sell UK duty free tobacco goods is treated extremely seriously and we will relentlessly pursue those believed to be involved.

“Anyone with information about the transport, storage or sale of cheap cigarettes or tobacco can help us by calling the Customs hotline on 0800 595000.”