THE hunt is on for an international gang after tobacco was smuggled from China ... in the post.
A haul with a street value of £53,000 was uncovered after HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) staff raided three addresses in the Chapeltown area of Pudsey, Leeds. The contraband included 42,000 cigarettes and 150 kilos of rolling tobacco on which £42,000 excise duty and VAT had not been paid.
A spokeswoman for HMRC said the packages had been sent through Parcel Post and were labelled as loose China tea.
Paperwork accompanying the item described the contents as clothing.
The tobacco destined for the black market included Benson & Hedges cigarettes in parcels and it is suspected it included counterfeit cigarettes and possibly bogus tobacco.
Investigations are continuing to establish the source of the illegal tobacco and who sent it.
HMRC are appealing to communities for information to help stop the influx of illegal cigarettes and tobacco into Leeds and West Yorkshire.
Regional head of detection, Michael Connolly said: “We know that there are criminal gangs in central Leeds and across West Yorkshire who are illegally supplying and selling duty free, and potentially counterfeit, tobacco goods.
“This criminal activity is something we, along with other law enforcement agencies, want to stamp out.
“Communities are being targeted by organised criminals making substantial profits at the expense of taxpayers, People are being sold unregulated, low quality counterfeit tobacco products.
“We urge anyone with information on the sale, supply or storage of duty free tobacco goods to contact our hotline on 0800 59 5000.
“You do not have to give your name.”