08:00 Saturday 02 March 2013

Fag bust follows on from undercover Mail probe

Written byHELEN KREFT

MORE than 13,000 illegal cigarettes have been taken off Burton’s streets following a crackdown sparked by an undercover Mail investigation.

The raids by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards team saw 13,330 cigarettes and 15 litres of alcohol seized from four independent shops in Burton.

The Mail visited premises thought to be involved in the practice in November, but was banned from publishing its results until HMRC had made its latest swoop.

The operation took place on Friday, February 22, but results have only just been released. It targeted as-yet unnamed shops in Uxbridge Street.

The revenue loss on products seized is £3,195.

Jennie Kendall, spokesman for HMRC, said: “We take tobacco smuggling very seriously. It’s costing the British taxpayer around £2 billion a year in lost revenue and has a devastating impact on all our communities and honest retailers having to compete with the black market economy.”

Officers visited four shops and seized the cigarettes – foreign brands and those known as ‘cheap whites’ including Jin Ling – and 15 litres of vodka.

No arrests have yet been made and investigations are ongoing.

During the Mail investigation, a reporter visited eight shops across Burton and was sold illegal Jin Ling cigarettes.

The HMRC has now given its consent for the perpetrators to be named – High Street News, in High Street, and Smackus, in Derby Street.

The Mail was also sold allegedly illegal cigarettes by the Ezee Shop, in Horninglow Road North, but the traders have denied the offence and are due to stand trial at Burton Magistrates’ Court.

None of these three shops were targeted in the HMRC raids.

Ms Kendall added: “These are the results of our most recent operation but we have been out and about constantly.

“This is the latest stage and follows on from the Mail’s own investigation. Investigations are continuing pending potential criminal proceedings.

“Anyone with information can contact 0800 595000 or email customs.hotline@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk”.

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