PSNI arrest one and seven million cigarettes seized in operation with HMRC officers

A man has been arrested and seven million suspected illicit cigarettes have been seized near Toome in Co Antrim.

Friday, 3rd September 2021, 11:03 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd September 2021, 11:21 pm

Neighbourhood PSNI officers found a large quantity of cigarettes being towed inside a 40ft curtain side trailer after stopping a HGV near Toome on Monday.

HM Revenue and Customs (MHRC) officers arrived and seized 7,200,000 suspected counterfeit cigarettes, worth almost £3m in lost duty and taxes.

The driver of the vehicle, a 28-year-old from the Magherafelt area, was arrested by the

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PSNI, interviewed by HMRC officers and later bailed pending further investigation.

The lorry, trailer and the suspected counterfeit cigarettes were all seized by HMRC officers.

Steve Tracey, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “The sale of illegal tobacco will not be tolerated by us or our partner agencies and disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £1.9 bn a year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.”

PSNI Ch Insp Mervyn Steffen explained that the joint operation sends a “powerful message to those engaged in this type of criminality that they will be detained and brought before the courts”.

“Those trading in illicit cigarettes can be involved in other organised criminality which brings misery and harm to local communities,” he said.

HMRC says that since 2000, it has reduced the illicit market in cigarettes by more than half.

From 2018 to 2019 it seized over 1.3bn cigarettes and 146 tonnes of tobacco, resulting in 278 successful prosecutions.

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