PICTURE GALLERY: Thousands of cigarettes and booze seized in raids across Lincolnshire - including Boston

More than 130,000 illicit cigarettes as well as large quantities of alcohol have been seized in a series of raids across Lincolnshire by HM Customs and Excise.

The raids were carried out in four areas of the county including Boston, where 400 cigarettes with an estimated £128 duty and VAT evaded, 11.8kg of shisha tobacco with an estimated £1,127 duty and VAT evaded, and 67 bottles of spirits with an estimated £644 duty and VAT evaded were seized.

Some of the tobacco seized EMN-160930-131239001

Some of the tobacco seized EMN-160930-131239001

But by far the biggest haul was at Lincoln, where officers seized 87,740 cigarettes (estimated £28,165 duty and VAT evaded), 23 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco (estimated £5,612 duty and VAT evaded), and 16.25 litres of spirits and wine (estimated £83 duty and VAT evaded), as well as one vehicle.

The Spalding raids too produced an enormous quantity of illict goods - 36,260 cigarettes (estimated £11,639 duty and VAT evaded), 1.4kg kilos of hand-rolling tobacco (estimated £342 duty and VAT evaded) and 12.6 litres of spirits (estimated £162 duty and VAT evaded), plus two vehicles.

The operation to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco and alcohol in Lincolnshire uncovered more than 130,000 cigarettes, 42 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco and 3,570 litres of beer, wine and spirits, all believed to be illicit.

The two-day operation involved officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), with support from Lincolnshire Trading Standards and Lincolnshire Police. They visited 36 retail premises on Tuesday, September 27 and Wednesday, September 28, and suspected illegal tobacco and alcohol products were taken from 20 premises in Lincoln, Spalding, Grantham and Boston.

Stuart Taylor, Assistant Director with the Fraud Investigation Service, said: “The sale of illegal tobacco and alcohol will not be tolerated by us or our partner agencies.

“Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2 billion a year, and the sale of illicit alcohol, which costs the UK around £1 billion per year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.

“Tax fraud is not acceptable and we will tackle it head on. We are levelling the playing field for legitimate local businesses who cannot compete with their criminal competitors.

“We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”