A joint operation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Police Scotland has led to the dismantling of one of Scotland’s biggest ever illegal tobacco factories.
The state-of-the-art factory in West Lothian was capable of evading millions of pounds of duty per year, with the sophisticated set up including expensive machinery and insulation to hide noise and smells, officers said.
Four tonnes of tobacco was recovered, worth an estimated £1 million in unpaid duty, during the raid that took place on 13 January. Suspected counterfeit tobacco pouches were also found and seized.
“This was one of the largest and most sophisticated tobacco factories we have ever uncovered in Scotland. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to target anyone we suspect as being involved in the illicit tobacco trade,” Joe Hendry, assistant director, 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 harm our communities. We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco or alcohol to report it to HMRC online.”
Detective Sergeant John Irvine, of Police Scotland, added: “We will continue to work closely with our partners to disrupt, detect and deter anyone involved in the illicit trade of illegal or counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco.
“We know that due to perceived higher profit margins, criminals can turn to the illicit trade in tobacco, which in turn can lead to other forms of criminality.
“If you have any information or concerns about illegal or counterfeit cigarettes or tobacco within the local community, please get in touch with HMRC or Police Scotland. Alternatively calls can be made to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 where anonymity can be maintained.”
Five people, four men and one woman, have been arrested and charged. Investigations are ongoing.