HMRC seize 140,000 illegal cigarettes and 11 kilos of tobacco in Leeds

142,000 illegal cigarettes seized in Leeds (Photo: HMRC)
142,000 illegal cigarettes seized in Leeds (Photo: HMRC)

HMRC has seized more than 140,000 illegal cigarettes and 11 kilos of tobacco in a huge operation in North East Leeds.

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Illegal cigarettes stashed in a van (Photo: HMRC)

Illegal cigarettes stashed in a van (Photo: HMRC)

The illicit goods, worth £51,159, were uncovered from three retail premises and two vans on Thursday, August 1.

Working with West Yorkshire Police and Trading Standards, HMRC officers seized the tobacco and alcohol products including 143,540 cigarettes and 11.59 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco.

129,000 cigarettes were found concealed inside false compartments in the rear doors of a van, which was parked outside one of the shops.

Another 9,000 cigarettes were found in another van which belonged to the same shop owner.

HMRC officers also seized 35 litres of suspected illicit vodka from another store.

No arrests were made and HMRC are continuing enquiries.

Eden Noblett, assistant director of HMRC's Fraud Investigation Service, 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 £1.8 billion a year, and the sale of illicit alcohol which costs the UK around £0.9 billion per year.

"This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders."

The operation was part of a wider police initiative aimed at tackling organised crime.

In an unconnected incident on the same day, West Yorkshire Police uncovered a huge cannabis factory in Harehills worth more than £200,000.

Detective Superintendent Jaz Khan, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “A number of searches as part of multi-agency day of action resulted in what is clearly a very significant quantity of suspected illegal cigarettes and tobacco.

"The organisations who sell them can often be linked to organised crime.

"This is far from a victimless crime and we will continue to work with partners to pursue those responsible.”

Anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco or alcohol should report it to West Yorkshire Police online or call the Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.

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