Massive cigarette smuggling ring busted

CUSTOMS officers have today seized more than eight million cigarettes from the Port of Ipswich. The haul is one of the biggest ever made in Suffolk and has resulted in 11 people being arrested.

CUSTOMS officers have today seized more than eight million cigarettes from the Port of Ipswich.

The haul is one of the biggest ever made in Suffolk and has resulted in 11 people being arrested.

Two men from Ipswich along with seven people from Braintree and two from Harlow were being held in custody today following the co-ordinated swoop at 9.30am. They are all being questioned on suspicion of smuggling quantities of cigarettes into the UK.

The shipment of cigarettes had arrived at the port from Lithuania and had a duty value of more than £1.2 million.

This morning's operation resulted in the Port of Ipswich being closed for one hour and it also involved Suffolk and Essex police. Search warrants were executed at addresses in Ipswich, Braintree and Harlow as part of the operation.

Christopher Webb senior investigation officer said this morning's swoop was a result of an ongoing operation targeting cigarette smugglers.

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He said: “This morning's 11 arrests are the result of months of dedicated work by Ipswich HM Revenue & Customs investigators jointly with Suffolk and Essex police.

“We have taken out a major organised crime syndicate involved in large scale smuggling of cigarettes and tobacco from Lithuania.

“We are delighted with the result today.”

Investigations are continuing to see whether any of the cigarettes are counterfeit.

A 43-year-old man from Ipswich and a 31-year-old man also from Ipswich have been arrested in relation to the matter. They are currently being held in custody.

All of the suspects were being quizzed at different locations around the region.

A number of people were also arrested at Bateman's Farm, Great Leighs in Essex as part of the swoop.

In a separate incident today seven people were being quizzed by detectives following a drugs swoop in Ipswich.

Police executed a warrant at an address in Birkfield Drive, Ipswich at around 10.35pm yesterday.

A quantity of controlled drugs and money were seized following a search of the property.

Seven people were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of controlled drugs.

A 48-year-old man and two 16-year-old women, from Ipswich, were being held. A 14-year-old girl and two men, aged 15 and 19, all from London, were also being questioned.

They were being held in custody at Ipswich Police Station.