Customs, Trading Standards, and police bust illegal tobacco and alcohol racket

trading standards

Posted on: 20 November 2015

Devon and Somerset Trading Standards, HMRC and police have swooped to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco and alcohol in Somerset.

The operation, led to the arrest of  one 42-year-old man on suspicion of evasion of excise duty and money laundering in Yeovil on 18 November – he has been bailed until January 2016 – and uncovered more than 45,000 cigarettes and over 80 litres of spirits.

Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), working with Devon and Somerset Trading Standards and Avon and Somerset Police, visited seven retail premises and five storage units in Bridgwater, Shepton Mallet, Taunton and Yeovil on Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 November.

The visits, part of HMRC’s multi-agency activity, led to the seizure of what is believed to be non-UK duty paid tobacco and alcohol products from five retail premises and a vehicle.

The illegal haul included 45,940 cigarettes, eight kgs of hand-rolling tobacco and 80 litres of spirits, with a total of £3400 of duty evaded.

During the operation around £21,500 in cash and one car, used to store excise goods, were also seized.

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 £2.1 billion a year, and the sale of illicit alcohol which costs the UK around £1.2 billion 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.”

Councillor David Hall, Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council with responsibility for Devon and Somerset Trading Standards, said:

“Illegal sales of tobacco have a huge impact on people’s health. When sold at considerably below the price of legal products they undermine efforts to reduce the prevalence of smoking. Those involved also encourage people, including children, to smoke and drink by providing a cheap source.

“Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Officers will continue to work with partners and take firm action to stop this type of activity by using our enforcement powers against those we catch. Our officers routinely act on information we receive, so I would encourage consumers to report those involved in selling illicit tobacco because their valuable information can significantly aid our investigations.”

Local Policing Area Commander for Somerset, Chief Inspector Jeff Foreman, said:

“We would urge the public to continue to be our eyes and ears and report anything they believe to be suspicious.”

Anyone with information regarding tobacco fraud is encouraged to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000 or via the website: https://www.gov.uk/report-tobacco-or-alcohol-tax-evasion

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