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Counterfeit Smuggling Scam Smashed In UK

by Robin Pilgrim,, London

08 November 2007

It emerged on Wednesday that a huge operation to smash a counterfeit smuggling ring between the United Kingdom and China has been successfully concluded.

Officers from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) working in Coventry completed the pre-Christmas operation to target and combat the multi-million pound smuggling scam. Vast quantities of counterfeit goods manufactured in illegal factories in China were seized.

According to HMRC, the high profile operation by Customs Officers, which took place over a two-week period, resulted in the detection and seizure of almost 16 million cigarettes, half a ton of hand rolling tobacco and thousands of counterfeit branded trainers being detected at the Coventry site - the largest parcel distribution centre in the UK.

The revenue loss on the tobacco was estimated to be over GBP4.4 million - around GBP3.3 million on the cigarettes and GBP1.2 million on the hand rolling tobacco. Around 15,000 pairs of Nike and Adidas branded trainers, valued at around GBP2.4 million, were also detected. The goods filled five 40 ft trailers.

Neil Goodban, Anti-Smuggling Manager for HMRC, explained that:

"This high impact campaign is part of our continuing efforts to stamp out the illegal trade in counterfeit goods. The proceeds from the illegal manufacture of counterfeit tobacco products and goods are often used to fund serious and organised crime such as drug smuggling. The illicit cigarette trade breeds contempt for the law by encouraging otherwise honest people to trade with criminals. Tobacco smuggling also undermines honest retail business whose trade is damaged by those undercutting them by evading tax."

He added: "Our message is clear and simple - we are determined to take every action possible to disrupt smuggling and organised crime and will not hesitate to prosecute those responsible."

The trade in illicit tobacco costs the taxpayer nearly GBP3 billion a year in lost revenue, according to the UK tax authority.

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