FOUR people have been arrested after attempts to smuggle tobacco into Southampton docks.
Three men and one woman were arrested on suspicion of trying to evade £1m of excise duty, after six-and-a-half tonnes of hand rolling tobacco was seized at both Southampton and Felixstowe container ports.
UK Border Agency officers uncovered the three separate cargo loads, which were recorded on import documents as ‘Chinese Herbs’.
They found 1.65 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco at Southampton container port in December 2011, a further 1.9 tonnes July last year and three tonnes at Felixstowe Container Port in April 2011.
Each illegal consignment was referred to HMRC for criminal investigation, resulting in the arrest of the woman in Croydon, on Wednesday last week.
On the same day HMRC investigators arrested three men in North Kensington, in relation to the 1.65 tonnes of tobacco seized at Southampton Container Port in December 2011.
It is estimated that the total haul could have made over twelve million cigarettes.
HM Revenue & Customs spokesman Bob Gaiger said: “Smuggling cigarettes and tobacco into the UK can have a devastating impact on legitimate traders and deprives the nation of around £2 billion a year in lost revenue which is needed for vital public services.
"We urge people to work more closely with us in the fight against crime and encourage anyone who is aware of illicit cigarettes or tobacco being smuggled into or sold in the UK to contact the Customs Hotline 0800 59 5000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
All three men have been bailed to 19 April 2012 and the woman until 24 April 2012.
The UK Border Agency has been alerted, as at least one man is in the UK illegally.