From: The Bolton News (UK)
MORE than one in 10 cigarettes smoked in Bolton are made from illegally smuggled tobacco supplied by organised criminal gangs.
Research by the tobacco industry shows 10.5 per cent of tobacco consumed in Bolton is illegal — making it the seventh worst place in the North West and among the worst in the country.
St Helen’s tops the region’s hall of shame, with 17.5 per cent of tobacco found to be illegal, followed by Blackburn, Blackpool, Manchester, Preston, Liverpool and then Bolton.
In March, a truck driver from Little Hulton was arrested after border police found 200,000 cigarettes hidden in a lorry full of plants.
The 50-year-old was driving the load from Europe to an unnamed location in Greater Manchester when the cigarettes were discovered, with an estimated duty evasion worth £50,000.
Bosses at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, which is responsible for policing smuggling in the UK, say tobacco smuggling is often linked to organised criminal gangs which also trade in other illegal commodities, such as drugs, illegal immigrants and trafficked prostitutes.
John Whiting, the HMRC’s assistant director of criminal investigations, said: “Tobacco smuggling is organised crime on a global scale with huge profits ploughed straight back into the criminal underworld, feeding activities like drug dealing, people smuggling and fraud.
“Purchasing cheap cigarettes without the duty paid on them means trading with criminals, and undermining honest businesses.
“Organised criminal gangs will deal in any commodity — alcohol, tobacco, rebated oils, drugs, stolen goods, illegal immigrants and human trafficking — whatever makes them money and allows them to launder their criminal profits.
“Many people who buy a few cans of lager or dodgy cigarettes do not realise the scale of criminality behind the sellers they are dealing with.”
Health chiefs say fake cigarettes are also part of the problem. They are often made in squalid conditions and have been found to contain seriously harmful substances such as asbestos, rat droppings and petrol.