£93k illicit tobacco factory raided in sleepy Lancashire village

EXPOSED: The illicit tobacco factory discovered in Hutton
EXPOSED: The illicit tobacco factory discovered in Hutton
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This was the scene as a suspected illicit tobacco factory was exposed in a sleepy village.

More than 412 kilos of raw tobacco was seized and sophisticated equipment dismantled in a business premises in Hutton, near Preston, after a police raid uncovered the stash.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said the tobacco was found in “various stages of processing”.

The haul is thought to be worth around £93,000 in lost duty and taxes.

Sandra Smith, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: “Tobacco fraud is highly organised global crime which costs the UK £2 billion a year in lost taxes which should be spent on public services. In addition to significant revenue loss, illicit tobacco products damage legitimate businesses and the trade is unregulated, making cheaper tobacco more readily available to the young and vulnerable.

“We would encourage anyone with information on tobacco fraud to contact the Customs’ Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”

A similar factory, operating in filthy conditions, was dismantled in a business unit in Burscough in December 2012.

Authorities say the low price and easy availability of illegal tobacco encourages people to keep smoking, with young people are often targeted by unscrupulous traders.

In the last six months, Trading Standards officers in Preston have seized nearly 1,000 packs of illicit products, with 10 prosecution cases having been dealt with or currently ongoing.

More than 50,000 Lancastrians are estimated to smoke illicit tobacco.