Five men have been arrested after equipment used for manufacturing illicit cigarettes and tobacco products was found in Greater Manchester and Essex.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers raided a farm in Essex this week as well as four premises near Bury and another in Blackburn, Lancashire, two weeks ago and seized cash, chemical agents, counterfeit packaging and tobacco packing machinery.

The officers also seized more than three tonnes of raw tobacco that was in the process of being converted into counterfeit hand rolling tobacco from an industrial unit in the Bury area. The haul is thought to be worth an estimated £5m in unpaid duty and VAT.

A further eight tonnes of tobacco valued around £1.8m in evaded duty and tax was also seized in Preston in 2013 as part of the same operation.

Sandra Smith, assistant director, criminal investigation at HMRC said: “It is clear from the chemicals and machinery we found that this gang planned to produce and sell illegal tobacco products across the UK.

“Illicit tobacco factories hidden in our communities are packaging low quality tobacco. Anyone with information about the transport, storage or sale of cheap cigarettes or tobacco can help us by calling the Customs hotline on 0800 59 5000.”