More than 132,000 illegally-sold cigarettes and 52 bottles of alcohol have been recovered during a customs crackdown that targeted shops in Leeds.
Officers from HMRC raided 37 retail premises in the city and in neighbouring Bradford and Dewsbury to confiscate the huge haul.
Also among the illicit goods discovered during this week’s operation was 49 kilograms of hand-rolling tobacco. The visits were part of the Tobacco Taskforce project and resulted in seizures from 22 of the shops.
Cigarettes worth £33,600 in unpaid duties were found as well as 20 kilos of shisha worth £2,119 in tax. The duty evaded on the alcohol amounted to £585.
Officers recovered goods from 15 concealed compartments within shops, and 19 people were interviewed over the offences.
Fraud Investigation Service assistant director Sandra Smith 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 clamp down on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2 billion a year, and the sale of illicit alcohol which costs the UK around £1 billion per year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.”
Anyone with concerns about unlicensed tobacco or alcohol sales can contact the customs hotline on 0800 595000.