Millions of cigarettes seized at airport

MILLIONS of illegal cigarettes have been seized from passengers at Stansted Airport during the past three months.

Elliot Furniss

MILLIONS of illegal cigarettes have been seized from passengers at Stansted Airport during the past three months.

Nearly one in five of the cigarettes smoked in the UK has been either smuggled into the country, is an illegal counterfeit, or both.

Many of these are brought in through airports and at Stansted, HM Revenue and Customs Officers (HMRC) have seized a massive four-and-a-half million cigarettes and nearly one ton of hand rolling since the New Year.

Some of the seizures were found in freight arriving at the airport, but the vast majority of the contraband came from passengers.

In some cases, people had simply not checked the quantities that can legally be brought back into the UK, but many others had flouted the rules in an attempt to bring in their illicit loads.

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HMRC spokeswoman Maddy Ratnett said illegally imported cigarettes were not only harmful to the economy but also extra dangerous to smokers' health.

She said: “As a result of these detections at Stansted millions of illegal cigarettes have been removed from the market place.

“Smuggling cigarettes is not a harmless tax fiddle - it damages the local economy and removes income that could build schools and hospitals.

“If the cigarettes are counterfeit they could have even greater health implications than normal cigarettes because the contents are unregulated.

“Anyone with any information on illegal goods can telephone our 24 hour confidential hotline number on 0845 59 5000.”

One passenger who was stopped by officers at Stansted had over 2,000 cigarettes strapped around his waist while another had his suitcase lining full of illegal cigarettes.

Another, claiming to be in the UK for a holiday, had no clothes at all because his whole suitcase was full of cigarettes.

Enquiries into these cases, and many others, are ongoing as the duty lost from tobacco brought in illegally through Stansted is estimated to be £1.25million.

All items seized by HMRC are recycled as part of a national initiative to reduce waste from smuggling activities - recycled, one ton of shredded tobacco would light a 100watt light bulb for 18 months.

The illicit cigarette trade funds serious organised crime, including the drugs trade and people smuggling. Suppliers of smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes are often large international criminal gangs, making huge profits.

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