A luxury penthouse and a narrowboat home were among eight addresses police swooped on in Leeds and North Yorkshire as part of a major probe into the international trade in counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco.
Three men were arrested, suspected "counterfeit" branded cigarettes and duty-evaded wines recovered, and a top-of-the-range BMW seized along with thousands of pounds in cash as part of a Proceeds of Crime Act campaign aimed at denying criminals cash benefits from crimes.
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At a container yard on Hunslet Road, Hunslet, some of the 14 cars and lorry container units were forcibly entered and the suspected contraband recovered.
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The discovery of possible explosive material in one vehicle resulted in the yard being evacuated and explosive experts summoned as a safety precaution.
In a raid on one Leeds home yesterday 2,500 cash was found including 2,000 sewn inside a number of teddy bears.
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A total of eight addresses – seven in Leeds and one in Selby – were raided.
Just after first light, officers swooped on a top floor penthouse at the luxury 66 apartment block Loom House off East Street minutes from the Parish Church.
The hammered their way into the fifth floor balconied apartment and began a detailed search.
At another impressive home in Swillington Lane, Swillington, a 46-year-
old man was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to launder money under POCA laws - 800 found in his back pocket was seized.
A 40-year-old man was detained when the police raided a home in Wetherby Road,Leeds.
The third suspect, a 34-year-old man, was arrested at house in Rookwood Road, Osmondthorpe,Leeds, again on suspicion of conspiracy to launder money under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
As part of the operation officers surrounded a narrowboat home the "Betty Boop" moored on the banks of the Leeds Liverpool Canal at Stourton,Leeds.
Experts from the West Yorkhire Police Underwater Search
Team were called to examine the boat on the partly frozen canal.
Soon after a detached brick home on the snow covered canal bank alongside the narrowboat's mooring was also searched by police.
"Operation Boxwood" was sparked last year by the seizure of counterfeit brand cigarettes worth 100,000 and 20,000 in cash believed to be linked to Eastern Europe after a raid on premises in Hunslet,Leeds.
In 2009/10 POCA inquiries by North West, North East and City and Holbeck divisions into a wide range of crimes led to the confiscation of over 2 million of criminals' gain.
The POCA teams include trained financial investigators who probe convicted and suspected criminals' lifestyles and gather evidence to secure confiscation orders by working alongside criminal justice partner agencies. Once confiscation orders have been made, if criminals don't pay up they can get an additional jail term, plus the debt will still have to be paid.
Det Chief Insp Andy Williams, leading the operations, said: "Targeting criminals' assets has become core business for us since the introduction of POCA legislation, and operations such as these are going on all year round across the district.
"Our message to those who think they can make money from crime in our communities and get away with it is clear. We will not only investigate your criminal activities and put you before the courts, we will also use this legislation to strip you of the gains you've generated from those crimes. No decent, law-abiding person wants to see someone in their community living the high life from dealing in drugs, trading in goods stolen in burglaries or other types of crime."
Under the 'Why Should They?' campaign, anyone who has information on people suspected of living off the proceeds of crime can contact Crimestoppers, anonymously and in confidence, on 0800 555 111.