Three men arrested after stash of counterfeit cigarettes worth around ‘£1.3m’ seized by Lancashire Police in Accrington

Three men were arrested after counterfeit cigarettes worth around ‘£1.3m’ were discovered inside a van by police in Accrington.

Officers on patrol in Blackburn received reports of suspicious activity in Peter Street at around 10.30am on Tuesday (August 2).

A large group of men had been seen loading boxes of cigarettes into the back of a van.

A Volkswagen Crafter was later stopped by police on the M65 near junction 4, while an Audi S3 was stopped on the A56 at Rising Bridge.

Both vehicles were searched, with officers subsequently finding 1.4 million counterfeit cigarettes and 75kg of hand-rolling tobacco inside the van.

The items had an estimated street value of £1.3m and would have resulted in a loss of £600,000 in excise duty, police said.

A 37-year-old man from Bolton, a 28-year-old man from Manchester and a 32-year-old man from Doncaster were arrested on suspicion of theft and counterfeit offences.

Trading Standards and HMRC were notified and all three men were later handed over to HMRC to progress the investigation.

Three men were arrested after counterfeit cigarettes worth around ‘£1.3m’ were discovered in Accrington (Credit: Lancashire Police)

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Sgt Pete Fyans, of the Lancashire Police TacOps team, said: “Counterfeit cigarettes are bad news on several levels, not least that they can pose a real danger to public health.

“Analysis carried out previously on seized counterfeit cigarettes has found them to contain ingredients such as arsenic, mould, insects, rat droppings, high levels of cancer-causing metals and even human faeces.

“We understand that a lot of people are struggling financially and buying cheap, illegal tobacco might seem like an easy way to save money, but it is not worth the risk.”

He added: “The sale of counterfeit cigarettes also helps to fund organised crime gangs and undercuts legitimate businesses.

“We hope this shows that we will not tolerate items like this being circulated on the streets of Lancashire and we will always act on information which disrupts the supply of counterfeit goods in the county.

“If you have any information about this type of activity, we would urge you to let us know.”

Anybody with information about the supply of counterfeit goods should contact the Citizens Advice Bureau by calling 0808 223 1133.

Residents can also contact police on 101, or call independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.