A “massive quantity” of illicit tobacco has been prevented from hitting the legal market after four key players in an major international smuggling operation were jailed last week.

The gang were in the process of setting up an illegal counterfeit factory in a in Leicestershire farm which would have manufactured illicit tobacco on a commercial scale. 

Officers raiding the farm discovered over 16 tonnes of raw leaf tobacco which would have been manufactured into hand rolling tobacco. The duty evaded on this amount of tobacco alone is estimated at £1.9m.

John Kay, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) assistant director of criminal investigation said: “This was a planned fraud on a huge scale. If it had not been stopped the UK market would have been flooded with massive quantities of illegal counterfeit tobacco products. 

"Criminals do not care who they sell to, they are only out to make a profit and line their own pockets. If you suspect or know about any illegal activities please call our 24 hour hotline on 0800 59 5000.”