HMRC shuts down illegal tobacco factory producing seven million cigarettes a week

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Inside the illegal tobacco factory raided in Leicester

The HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has dismantled one of the UK’s biggest ever illegal tobacco factories after a raid in Leicester.

The state-of-the-art factory, which was capable of producing more than seven million cigarettes a week, was uncovered in an operation by the HMRC with support from law enforcement partners in Poland.

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

It’s estimated 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.

“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,” Richard Las, Head of Operations, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said.

“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.”

Nine men have been arrested and investigations are ongoing.