Raids in stores and storage units across Somerset have uncovered more than 45,000 illicit cigarettes and over 80 litres of spirits.
Seven stores and five storage units were visited by officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) working with Devon and Somerset Trading Standards and Avon and Somerset Police.
The visits, part of HMRC’s multi-agency activity, led to the seizure of suspected non-UK duty paid tobacco and alcohol from five retail premises and a vehicle. This includes:
- 45,940 cigarettes, with £12,000 duty evaded
- Almost eight kgs of hand-rolling tobacco, with £1,400 duty evaded
- Over 80 litres of spirits, with £800 duty evaded.
During the operation around £21,500 in cash and one car, being used to store excise goods, were also seized.
A 42 year-old man was also arrested on suspicion of evasion of excise duty and money laundering in Yeovil. He has been bailed until January 2016.
Colin Spinks, assistant director, fraud investigation service, HMRC, said: “The sale of illegal tobacco and alcohol will not be tolerated by us or our partner agencies.
“Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2.1bn a year, and the sale of illicit alcohol which costs the UK around £1.2bn per year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.
“We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco or alcohol to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
Six tobacco dogs and their handlers also worked on this operation.
Last year HMRC prosecuted 417 people and seized over 1.8bn cigarettes and 313 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco.
HMRC can also levy civil penalties on anyone handling, using or supplying non-duty paid tobacco products. Penalties introduced in April 2010 range from 10 to 100% of the possible lost revenue.