Cigarettes and tobacco seized in crackdown on illicit trade

A Government crackdown on cigarette and tobacco fraud has led to the seizure of illicit products with a tax value of £232 million.

More than 600 million illicit cigarettes and 137 metric tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco were found - with 10.7 million of these inland, 182.8 million at the border and 425.6 million overseas - in the six-month period between April and September last year.

A HMRC spokesman said by working with other enforcement agencies it has halved the size of the illicit market in cigarettes and that of illicit hand-rolling tobacco by a third but the trade remains a "significant problem".

Following the launch of the 'Tackling Tobacco Smuggling' strategy in 2000, HMRC said it has had a significant impact on reducing the trade.

Since then it has decreased the illicit market for cigarettes from 22% to 10% today - with hand-rolling tobacco down from 61% to 35%.

In that same period the revenue lost has reduced from £3.4 billion to £2.1 billion per year.

A report published by HMRC in March last year said that smuggling "undermines legitimate business and is dominated by internationally organised criminal groups often involved in other crimes such as drug smuggling and people trafficking".