More than 8.5 tonnes of illicit tobacco has been seized from a factory in Leicester.
Worth an estimated £3m in unpaid duty, the tobacco was recovered as part of an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) with support from law enforcement partners in Poland.
HMRC said this was “one of the UK’s biggest-ever illegal tobacco factories”, and was capable of producing more than seven million cigarettes a week.
The factory’s equipment included professional extraction systems, insulation to hide noise, expensive machinery and accommodation for staff.
HMRC believes the secret two-storey factory would have cost more than £1 million to set up and would have led to lost tax revenues totalling more than £130 million per year.
Nine men have been arrested on suspicion of fraudulent evasion of duty contrary to section 170(2) of the Customs and Excise Management Act (1979), with investigations ongoing.
Richard Las, head of operations at the Fraud Investigation Service of HMRC, said: “This was one of the most sophisticated tobacco factories we have ever uncovered, and our work with our international partners to dismantle it will be a significant blow to the organised criminals we believe are behind it.
“The illicit tobacco trade steals money from our vital public services, undercuts legitimate businesses and can fund other crimes that impact our communities, such as guns, drugs and human trafficking. These criminals don’t care who they sell to, including children.
“We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco or alcohol to report it to HMRC online.”