Million cigarettes seized by customs

NEARLY a million contraband cigarettes worth £130,000 in revenue to the government have been seized at Ipswich docks.Customs officers discovered more than 835,000 'Sovereign' brand cigarettes whenthey examined an empty container that had arrived at the waterfront fromLithuania.

By Colin Adwent


NEARLY one million contraband cigarettes, worth £130,000 in revenue to the government, have been seized at Ipswich docks.

Customs officers discovered more than 835,000 'Sovereign' brand cigarettes when they examined an empty container that had arrived at the waterfront from Lithuania.

The container in which the tobacco arrived had been elaborately concealed in an attempt to avoid detection, had arrived on a ship named mv Polarwind.

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The bootlegged tobacco was hidden under a false floor and in a sophisticated roof concealment, which used a pulley system to open the compartment.

Increasingly, over the past five years, Suffolk has been targeted by major crime syndicates from across the world. In particular organised gangs from the former Soviet Union states have been at the forefront of the illegal tobacco trade.

Smuggling cigarettes is now big business. In the late 1990s HM Customs seized around 35 million cigarettes in Suffolk over a 12-month period as the smugglers tried to dupe the authorities.

However now the figure runs in to hundreds of millions of cigarettes a year as the massive profit to be made from cut price tobacco is seen as being an easier option than smuggling drugs and just a lucrative.

The government has ploughed an enormous amount of money and resources in to the war against the contraband including a hi-tech scanner at the Port of Felixstowe.

Speaking about the latest seizure, John Barber, regional customs spokesman, said: "Eastern European countries are well known for supplying large quantities of smuggled cigarettes into the UK.

"There are a number of highly organised criminal gangs who have linked up with their counterparts in this country to smuggle this type of contraband."

The 835,000 cigarettes were discovered ten days ago. However for operational reasons HM Customs have not made the haul public until now.

To date no arrests have been made in relation to this seizure but investigations are continuing.

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