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Felixstowe: Four arrested in alleged tobacco-smuggling plot

By COLIN ADWENT, crime correspondent Tuesday, January 31, 2012
12:00 PM

FELIXSTOWE: Four suspected smugglers are on bail today after large quantities of hand-rolling tobacco were seized at Felixstowe and Southampton ports.

They include a 40-year-old woman who was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of evading more than £1million in excise duty, following the discovery of hauls totalling 6.5 tonnes.

UK Border Agency officers uncovered the three separate cargo loads of tobacco, which were recorded on import documents as ‘Chinese Herbs’, last April.

Three tonnes were
seized at Felixstowe, while around three-and-a-half tonnes were found at Southampton.

Each illegal consignment was referred to criminal investigators of HM Revenue and Customs for investigation.

It is estimated the total haul could have made over 12 million cigarettes.

The woman was arrested in Croydon, Greater London.

Meanwhile three men, aged 25, 29, and 36, were also detained in North Kensington, London, in relation to 1.65 tonnes of tobacco seized at Southampton Container Port in December 2011.

All the suspects are Chinese nationals. At least one of the men is believed to be in the county illegally.

A home in Croydon, three in London, and a commercial address in North Kensington, London, have been searched by customs officers, as the investigation continues.

The inquiry has already spanned a nine-month period as the Felixstowe seizure was made in April last year.

The female suspect has been released on bail until April 24, while the men are on bail until April 19.

All four were arrested for being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of excise duty chargeable on tobacco.

HM Revenue & Customs spokesman Bob Gaiger said: “Smuggling cigarettes and tobacco into the UK can have a devastating impact on legitimate traders and deprives the nation of around £2billion a year in lost revenue which is needed for vital public services.

“We urge people to work more closely with us in the fight against crime and encourage anyone who is aware of illicit cigarettes or tobacco being smuggled into or sold in the UK to contact the Customs hotline 0800 59 5000 or e-mail”

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