30m cigarettes seized in three weeks

CUSTOMS officers today said they have struck back against international racketeers deluging Felixstowe docks with smuggled cigarettes.

CUSTOMS officers today said they have struck back against international racketeers deluging Felixstowe docks with smuggled cigarettes.

During the past three weeks almost 30 million brand-name counterfeit cigarettes have been seized after arriving from the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Five attempts by international organised crime gangs have been foiled at the port since late August. Intelligence-led operations proved successful in detecting the plots.

The government duty evaded on the cigarettes would have been in the region of £5m.

Officers swooped on the latest seizure of 3.7m cigarettes concealed in paper reels from Dubai. The discovery was impounded on September 16.

Ten days earlier, 1.2m cigarettes were taken away from the port after being found behind a shipment of cane furniture in a container from China.

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The previous confiscation came after three million cigarettes were discovered in personal effects which arrived from South Africa.

Meanwhile, during the last week in August, customs impounded two separate shipments within four days.

One held 8.6m cigarettes within a container which was described in documentation as garden tools from China.

The other seizure, of 3.7m, was concealed in a consignment of recycled paper from Dubai.

Jim Jarvie, Ipswich-based head of operation for HM Customs' central region, said: “This illegal activity should be condemned by the public.

“Not only are counterfeit cigarettes more dangerous to health due to their unregulated chemical content, but smokers who think wrongly they are getting a bargain don't realise that this trade damages honest businesses, costs billions in lost revenue and lines the pockets of criminals instead of funding public services.

“Cigarette smuggling and counterfeiting is an organized crime often linked to money laundering and drugs. I urge members of the public, newsagents or the off-license trade and stallholders at local markets who know of any suspicious activities that may be linked to tobacco smuggling to call our 24-hour confidential hotline 0800 59 5000."

Current estimates suggest that around a quarter of the smuggled cigarette market is counterfeit.

The cigarettes are mainly produced in the Far East and Eastern Europe. Counterfeit cigarettes are generally made to order and are indistinguishable from the genuine article.

Counterfeit cigarettes contain on average higher concentrations of arsenic (three times the level of their genuine counterparts), cadmium (five times the level) and lead (5.8 times the level).

WEBLINK: www.hmrc.gov.uk

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