Massive illegal cigarette haul at port

MILLIONS of counterfeit cigarettes worth almost £10 million have been discovered in one of the biggest seizures Felixstowe port has ever seen.Forty-four million cigarettes, in Benson and Hedges packaging, were discovered in eight containers at the port following a special operation by Customs officials.

MILLIONS of counterfeit cigarettes worth almost £10 million have been discovered in one of the biggest seizures Felixstowe port has ever seen.

Forty-four million cigarettes, in Benson and Hedges packaging, were discovered in eight containers at the port following a special operation by Customs officials.

David Odd, the officer heading the investigation, which took several months, said: "The cigarettes have been sent for analysis but there is little doubt that they are counterfeit."

The consignments arrived from China, which is believed to be where the illegal cigarettes are manufactured.

Customs spokesman Rob Hastings-Trew said: "We have seen an increase in the number of counterfeit cigarettes entering the country but this is a huge seizure – probably one of the biggest we have ever seen.

"If the cigarettes had not been discovered they would have been broken down into tens of thousands and then passed on to dealers who sell them at reduced prices from hold-alls in pubs, or at car-boot sales."

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The retail value of the cigarettes would be almost £10m, but because they would not be sold at full price the 'street' value would be closer to £5-and-a-half million.

If, as expected, the analysis proves the cigarettes to be counterfeits they will then be shredded, compressed into blocks and burnt at power stations.

Ten people were arrested in connection with the haul on Monday night: four men from Slough, and five men and one woman from Barnsley. The men from Slough are all Polish nationals.

The woman from Barnsley and two of the men from Slough have now been charged.

Mr Odd said: "Tobacco smuggling is a serious crime and Customs are committed to reducing all forms of illicit cigarettes – smuggled or counterfeit. We will continue to hit the criminals hard."

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