MILLIONS of illegal cigarettes have been found after HMRC officers swooped on a business in Bolton.

Seven people were arrested following the sting at the business, where gang members were found removing Pride cigarettes from imported metal pipes.

The men were loading the cigarettes into vans ready to sell on, HMRC said.

More than three million illegal cigarettes were seized, which HMRC said caused a £1 million loss in unpaid duty and VAT.

Sandra Smith, from HMRC, said: “Cheap whites, as they are known, are cigarettes manufactured abroad often specifically for the smugglers and criminal networks to use for money laundering.

"If you are offered cheap cigarettes it may seem like a bargain, but there are no controls over what is mixed into these products and by buying them smokers are funding international organised crime gangs and helping them to evade taxes across many borders."

HM Revenue and Customers refused to say where the raid was, but it is understood to have been in the south of Bolton on Friday, April 25.

Three men aged 57, 49 and 25, all from Bolton, were arrested along with a 49-year-old man from Swinton, a 53-year-old from Stalybridge, a 49-year-old from London and a 47-year-old Lincolnshire man.

A van was also seized in the raid.

All men have been bailed until July while HMRC investigates.

The illegal cigarettes will be burned to fuel the National Grid, HMRC said.