A joint operation between HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Northamptonshire Police and Trading Standards has led to the seizure of 44,000 cigarettes and five kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, all believed to be illicit.

Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), working alongside Northamptonshire Police and Trading Standards, seized the 44,030 cigarettes and 5.7 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, worth an estimated £20,185 in duty from two premises near Northampton town centre earlier this month (November 2021).

HMRC and Northamptonshire Police were supported by the East Midlands Special Operations Unit’s Regional Disruption Team.

Assistant director of Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC Richard Paris said: “The sale of illegal tobacco 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 £2.3 billion a year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders. 

“We work closely with the police, trading standards, local authorities and international law enforcement, and have cut by a third the market in illicit cigarettes since 2000 and halved the hand-rolling tobacco market over the same period.

“We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to report it online or call the Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

Detective Chief Inspector Steve Watkins of Northamptonshire Police added: “Selling illicit tobacco and other non-duty paid goods may seem like a victimless crime but that is a misconception. Illegal goods are often dangerous and could seriously damage people’s health because they don’t go through the same testing processes as legal products.

“This type of crime often also hides a much larger and wider criminality as well with illicit tobacco having links to serious and organised crime - the tackling of which is an absolute priority for Northamptonshire Police.”