Smuggled tobacco found in cases of Chinese tea
Customs officers have foiled a tobacco leaf smuggling operation which could have fetched up to £25,000 on the street.
Around 50kgs of the raw material — enough to make 100,000 counterfeit cigarettes — was contained in a consignment of Chinese tea.
Officers uncovered the leaf on Tuesday at a Belfast postal distribution centre.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) believe those behind the operation could have used the imported tobacco to produce counterfeit cigarettes with an estimated street value of £25,000.
Mike Connolly, assistant director, specialist investigations, HMRC said: “This form of criminality is motivated solely by greed and personal gain, costing around £2bn per year in unpaid duty.
“This quantity of tobacco could have produced over 100,000 cigarettes, making a substantial profit for the criminals.
“The unregulated sale of illegal tobacco products is not a victimless or harmless crime, and encourages otherwise honest people to trade with criminals.
“We are keen to work closely with and support local businesses that have to compete against these illegal sales.
“We would encourage anyone who knows of someone selling cheap or duty-free tobacco or cigarettes to contact our hotline on 0800 595000.”
Meanwhile, HMRC officers searched a mobile shop in the Ballymena area on Monday where they seized 3,640 illicit cigarettes.
The vehicle was seized, costing the owner £600 to have it returned.