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Illegal tobacco and alcohol seized in Southampton

Thousands of cigarettes seized Credit: HM Revenue and Customs

Thousands of illegal cigarettes have been seized in raids across Southampton. Over 100 officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) were involved in the operation, with support from Hampshire Police, Southampton City Council Trading Standards, Immigration Enforcement and Border Force officers. Two specialist Border Force tobacco dogs were also deployed. Investigators visited 19 retail premises across the city. They seized more than 8,000 cigarettes, 5.7 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco and 500 litres of alcohol. It is estimated around £8,500 of duty and VAT may have been evaded.

In one shop officers found a baggy overcoat with individual packets of cigarettes and tobacco hidden inside the lining, sleeves and pockets. At another store tobacco was concealed under papers in a newspaper stand.

John Cooper, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: “The sale of illegal tobacco and alcohol will not be tolerated. Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2 billion a year, and the sale of illicit alcohol which costs the UK around £1 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.”

Tax clock ticking if you want to avoid a fine

If you haven’t yet sent in your 2012/13 tax return, remember to do it online to avoid a penalty.

Nearly two million people in the South East have to file a Self Assessment return every year.

You must do it online by 31 Jan 2014 and you must be registered for HMRC Online Services.

If you send HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) a paper tax return from November onwards, you’ll receive a £100 late filing penalty – even if you have no tax to pay, or you pay your tax bill on time. This is because the 31 October deadline for 2012/13 paper tax returns has now passed.

This involves HMRC sending you an Activation Code in the post, so allow time for this to arrive. To register for HMRC Online Services go to www.hmrc.gov.uk/online and follow the on-screen instructions.

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Heathrow - 10 men arrested in smuggling investigation

Ten men have been arrested by HM & Revenue Customs officers investigating a freight warehouse at Heathrow. The site is believed to have been be used for cigarette and drug smuggling. The HMRC said the arrests sent a clear message to would-be smugglers.

The ten arrested men have been released without charge until September pending further inquiries.

“Operation Bypass is an HMRC-led investigation targeting those suspected to be involved in attempts to smuggle cigarettes and illegal drugs into the UK. At various stages of the investigation, we have worked closely with colleagues from Border Force. Further details cannot be provided at this stage of the investigation as enquiries continue.

“However, our operation today sends out a clear message to those involved in this type of criminality; attempts to smuggle goods illegally into the UK will not be tolerated, and together with partner enforcement agencies we will relentlessly pursue any individuals or crime gangs believed to be involved in this type of criminal activity.”

– John Cooper, HMRC’s Assistant Director for Criminal Investigation

Ten arrested in Heathrow drug smuggling investigation

Customs officers investigating a freight warehouse at Heathrow believed to have been used for cigarette and drug smuggling, have arrested ten men - from Southall, Frimley, Stanmore, West Drayton, High Wycombe, Luton, Forest Gate and Manchester.

The ten men have been released on bail without charge until September, pending further inquiries. Around 90 investigators from HMRC, working with officers from Border Force, searched the warehouse in Heathrow.

The officers also searched eight residential and three business properties in Frimley in Surrey; Southall, Stanmore and West Drayton in Middlesex; High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire and Luton in Bedfordshire. During the investigation the following items were seized:

  • Six kilos of crystal amphetamine with an estimated street value of £180,000
  • Approximately £54,000 in cash
  • One LDV high top van
  • Two HGV lorries
  • A quantity of Kamagra jelly
  • Computers, mobile phones and business records.