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Home Maidstone News Article
Bootlegged alcohol and tobacco worth £10,000 in evaded tax has been seized by customs officials.
Officers from HM Revenue and Customs, Kent Police, the county council and Medway Council recovered 600 litres of illicit alcohol, 18,000 cigarettes and 9kg of tobacco from a series of raids on Thursday.
The raids took place at over 30 convenience stores, off licences and mini markets based in Maidstone, Sheerness, Sittingbourne and Gillingham.
One person has been arrested so far and investigations, which could lead to criminal prosecutions, substantial tax assessments and penalties, are ongoing.
Michael Connolly, from HMRC’s taskforce, said: “The traders found dealing in illicit alcohol and tobacco will now feel the full weight of HMRC Taskforces.
“Their illicit trade is proof that they’re suppressing sales and not paying their fair share of tax.”
Mark Rolfe, KCC Trading Standards Manager, added: “Smoking is one of the biggest causes of ill health and the trade in illicit tobacco makes a serious issue worse.
“There are controls in place which ensure that tobacco and alcohol products meet certain safety standards and are not sold to children.
“When items are smuggled into the UK, those controls are broken, which means it is not possible to guarantee the safety of the products.
“It is for these reasons that we will continue to work alongside HMRC and the police to drive out this illegal trade.”
Detective Constable Gill Angus, of Kent Police’s licensing team in Medway, said:
“Kent Police is always keen to support operations and licensing officers were present at several of the venues when seizures were made.
“Those premises that have a current and valid premise licence will receive a formal written warning and advised any further breaches of the law relating to illicit alcohol or tobacco products will result in a review of that licence.
“That may result in a revocation or suspension of their licence. One venue visited by officers on the day will be subject to the review process due to the seizures and additional breaches.
“Our advice is never to engage with rogue traders where alcohol or tobacco is concerned, and if they are being offered a really cheap deal, then it is likely to be fraudulent.
“If traders are unsure of products, then seek advice from the licensing officers or local trading standards.”
Anyone who has information about the sale, storage or transport of illicit alcohol and tobacco to call the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
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