In Walsall, near Birmingham, HM Revenue & Customs officers uncovered an "Aladdin's cave" of illicit tobacco and alcohol hidden beneath the floor of two independent retail stores.
More than 25,550 mixed branded, foreign-marked cigarettes thought to be counterfeit, 10kg of hand- rolling tobacco, 39 litres of illicit spirits and 19 litres of wine were recovered in a network of purpose-made concealments. A second underground cache which used a pulley system to hoist up goods housed a further 441,640 illicit cigarettes and 132kg of hand-rolling tobacco.
Keith Morgan, specialist investigation detection manager at HMRC, said: "This was a massive haul of contraband goods found in two local shops along with a sophisticated and purpose-made concealment within the premises. We would strongly encourage any retailers approached by those selling illicit goods to contact the Customs Hotline straightaway."
He added: "Only by working together can we impact hard on this form of criminality, which is draining billions from public funds each year and causing real devastation to legitimate retailers."
Meanwhile, a shopkeeper in Bolton was given a 12-month community order including 150 hours of unpaid work last week after he was found guilty of selling smuggled Vietnamese cigarettes from under his counter. Just under 1,000 packs of illicit rolling tobacco had been found hidden in Hoan Dinh's California Wine store.