Over 10,000 illegal cigarettes found in 100-year-old safe in Ipswich

File photo dated 01/02/15 of HM Revenue and Customs officers seizing illegal tobacco. More than five

HM Revenue and Customs officers seized over 10,000 illegal cigarettes from a 100-year-old safe. A previous incident of HMRC officers seizing tobacco is pictured. - Credit: PA

Over 10,000 cigarettes and nearly 20kg hand-rolling tobacco was found inside a century-old safe in Ipswich.

Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) visited four shops on Thursday, February 10, during an operation to disrupt the sale of illegal tobacco.

At one shop, investigators discovered a safe which was four inches thick and the owner claimed the key was in London.

The safe was found to contain 10,440 cigarettes and 19.95 kilos of hand-rolled tobacco after a safecracker took an hour and a half to break the safe's lock.

Across the four visits, the investigation uncovered seized 12,840 cigarettes, and 19.95 kilos of hand rolled tobacco from two locations, worth an estimated £10,879 in duty and VAT.

Ian Woolston, assistant director at the fraud investigation service with HMRC, said: "The sale of illegal tobacco 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 £2.3 billion a year.

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

"Cheap cigarettes come at a cost, as they often fund organised crime and other illegal activity that causes real harm to our communities."

The visits were part of a wider joint initiative between HMRC and National Trading Standards to uncover and disrupt the illicit tobacco market.

HMRC encourages anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to report it online or to call the Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.