Three held as massive tobacco hauls seized

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The Independent Online

Customs officers have arrested three people after enough hand-rolling tobacco to make three million cigarettes was discovered in two separate seizures, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said today.

On 26 October, UK Border Agency (UKBA) officers found 930kg of tobacco, enough to make 1.8 million cigarettes, inside a van which arrived at Poole Ferryport, Dorset, from Santander, Spain.

The driver of the van, a 33-year-old Romanian man who lives in Spain, was questioned and released on bail until 28 February.

The amount of revenue allegedly evaded was £105,000, according to a HMRC spokesman.

On 3 October, a further 450kg of tobacco, as well as 28,000 cigarettes, was found in a people carrier also arriving at Poole Ferryport.

A 47-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman, both from Stockton-on-Tees, were returning from Cherbourg, France, when they were arrested.

They have been bailed until January 4. The alleged revenue evaded was £56,000, according to the HMRC spokesman.

Bob Gaiger, HMRC spokesman in the South West, said: "Regional ports like Poole should not be seen as a soft touch.

"The skills of UKBA detection officers and HMRC investigators have prevented almost 1.4 tonnes of tobacco from being smuggled into the UK.

"Smugglers are motivated by profit and don't care about the impact their actions have on legitimate retailers."