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Customs officers smash £130million illegal tobacco factory producing seven million cigarettes a week

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Customs officers smash £130million illegal tobacco factory that could produce seven million cigarettes a week

  • 8.5 tonnes of tobacco worth £130million was seized from a factory in Leicester
  • The operation was uncovered by HMRC with support of police officers in Poland
  • It is believed the two-storey factory would have cost over £1 million to build

One of the UK’s biggest ever illegal tobacco factories has been dismantled after a raid in Leicester.

The factory, which was capable of producing more than seven million cigarettes a week, was snared in a sting operation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) with the help of police in Poland.

The sophisticated set up included professional extraction systems, insulation to hide noise, expensive machinery and accommodation for staff.

It is believed the secret two-storey factory would have cost more than £1 million to set up and would have led to lost tax revenues totalling more than £130 million per year.

More than 8.5 tonnes of tobacco was also recovered from the site, worth more than £3 million in unpaid duty. Nine fully loaded lorries were needed to remove the machinery.

The factory in Leciester was capable of producing more than seven million cigarettes a week. It was snared in a sting operation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) with help from police in Poland

The factory in Leciester was capable of producing more than seven million cigarettes a week. It was snared in a sting operation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) with help from police in Poland

It is believed the secret two-storey factory would have cost more than £1 million to set up and would have led to lost tax revenues totalling more than £130 million per yea.

It is believed the secret two-storey factory would have cost more than £1 million to set up and would have led to lost tax revenues totalling more than £130 million per yea.

Nine fully loaded lorries were needed to remove the machinery (pictured)

Nine fully loaded lorries were needed to remove the machinery (pictured)

More than 8.5 tonnes of tobacco was also recovered from the site, worth more than £3 million in unpaid duty

More than 8.5 tonnes of tobacco was also recovered from the site, worth more than £3 million in unpaid duty

The sophisticated set up included professional extraction systems, insulation to hide noise, expensive machinery and accommodation for staff (pictured)

The sophisticated set up included professional extraction systems, insulation to hide noise, expensive machinery and accommodation for staff (pictured)

Richard Las, Head of Operations, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: ‘This was one of the most sophisticated tobacco factories we have ever uncovered, and our work with our international partners to dismantle it will be a significant blow to the organised criminals we believe are behind it.

‘The illicit tobacco trade steals money from our vital public services, undercuts legitimate businesses and can fund other crimes that impact our communities, such as guns, drugs and human trafficking. 

‘These criminals don’t care who they sell to, including children.

‘We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco or alcohol to report it to HMRC online.’

Nine men have been arrested and investigations are ongoing.

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