HMRC swoop nets major haul of bootleg tobacco

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The writing on these cigarette packets is a hefty clue that these packs seized by HMRC in Glasgow may not be legitimate cigarettes.

They are part of a haul of more than 50,000 cigarettes and 6.15 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco found in hiding places including a stereo speaker, boxes, and behind shop counters, when Customs officers carried out a major operation in Glasgow.

With them were trading standards officers and police, in an exercise designed to crack down on the flood of illicit tobacco entering Scotland.

Specially-trained “tobacco dogs” helped sniff out the suspected contraband in some shops, and the total value of the tax evaded came to an estimated £21,420 evaded on the readymade cigarettes and £1.438 on the handrolling tobacco.

HMRC claims to have reduced the illicit marketi n cigarettes by more than a third, with 3.5 billion readymade cigarettes and almost 600 tonnes of handrolling tobacco seized in the last two years, leading to 848 prosecutions.

Trading standards officers in Scotland regularly warn that besides being illegal, many of the cigarettes supplied from East European countries - often in convincing fake packaging - are also counterfeits which bear no relation to the authentic brand.

They can be cut with dangerous ingredients, and the people selling them may also be heavily involved in organised crime - such as drugs and people trafficking.