£138m illegal cigarette factory discovered in Birmingham raid

A TOBACCO processing factory capable of producing cigarettes on an industrial scale has been discovered in Birmingham during a raid led by HM Revenue and Customs.

The factory, based in an industrial unit on the outskirts of the city centre, is thought to have been capable of producing 35 million cigarettes a month, at a potential cost to taxpayers of almost £138m in lost duty and taxes a year.

HMRC officers, working with Birmingham City Council Trading Standards, Immigration Enforcement, the Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) and West Midlands Police, shut down and dismantled the plant after the raid.

The major operation also led to the recovery of four lorryloads of processed and raw tobacco, cigarettes and packaging materials. A nearby residential address was also searched.

After the operation, ten men, all aged 26 to 40 from Brazil and Paraguay, were arrested by Immigration Enforcement officers for immigration offences. All ten are detained while steps are taken to remove them from the UK.

Stuart Taylor, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Tobacco fraud costs the UK £2.4bn a year in lost tax, ‎money that should be funding vital public services in the UK.

“We continue to work with other enforcement agencies to reduce the availability of illicit tobacco.”

Sajeela Naseer, Head of Trading Standards for Birmingham City Council, said: “This operation shows partnership working at its best.

“Together we’ve taken action on illicit tobacco fraud and this factory alone had the potential to deprive HM Treasury of millions of pounds. Birmingham Trading Standards will continue its investigation in relation to the suspected counterfeit cigarettes found during the operation.”

Investigations into the operation are ongoing.