ALMOST 30,000 cigarettes have been seized by police in Edinburgh during a series of raids aimed at smashing a scam to bring illegal tobacco into the country from China.
In a three-day operation last week, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) inland detection officers, working with officers from the Royal Mail investigations branch, Lothian and Borders and Strathclyde police, seized more than 60,000 cigarettes throughout Edinburgh and Glasgow on which the duty had not been paid.
The raids followed investigations by HMRC into a cigarette smuggling scam, which saw the illegal imports brought from China into Scotland through the postal system.
As part of the operation a man was detained by HMRC officers at the Comley Bank Road Post Office delivery office last Wednesday.
He had arrived by taxi with a large suitcase to collect parcels that contained 10,800 cigarettes with an estimated revenue value of £2700.
The cigarettes were packaged and addressed for locations in Edinburgh.
More than 40,000 cigarettes from earlier consignments had already been intercepted.
Edinburgh seizures over the period came to 28,800 cigarettes, which would have led to a duty and VAT loss of £5924.
Search warrants were also executed at three associated addresses in Edinburgh and Glasgow, where more than 10,000 cigarettes, along with equipment for manufacturing pouches of fake Golden Virginia tobacco, were recovered.
HMRC’s assistant director for criminal investigation, John Fitzcharles, said it was important to crack down on the trade in illegal tobacco, and said it had a “devastating” impact on local retailers.
“This form of criminality is motivated solely by greed and personal gain, costing taxpayers around £2 billion each year in unpaid duty,” he said.
“This illegal activity has a devastating impact on honest retailers forced to compete with illegal, unregulated sales and it encourages criminality.
“HMRC continues to work with the police and other law enforcement agencies to protect the public from the significant and damaging effect smuggled and counterfeit tobacco products have on our communities.”
Illegal cigarettes are a huge business, and last April HMRC officers, working with Lothian and Borders Police, seized more than 60,000 illegally imported cigarettes in a raid on a house and van in Leith. The goods, worth almost £20,000, were found after a tip-off.
Customs officers found almost 10,000 cigarettes in the van, then raided an address in Brunswick Road where a further 52,000 cigarettes and 35kg of tobacco were found.
A 51-year-old man was cautioned as part of the inquiry.