ALMOST 50,000 illegal cigarettes and ten kilos of hand-rolling tobacco have been seized following raids at a series of shops in Bolton.

About 18 officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), with support from Greater Manchester Police, visited four retail premises across the town on Wednesday, August 21.

The raids were part of an operation to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco in Bolton.

The haul seized consisted of 48,500 cigarettes, with an estimated £16,206 duty and VAT evaded, as well as 9.9 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, with an estimated £2,952 duty and VAT evaded,

Elaine Davies, Business Unit Head, Taskforce and Specialist Compliance, HMRC, said: “The sale of illegal tobacco 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 £1.8 billion a year.

“This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.

“We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to report it online or call the Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

HMRC says that, in the last two financial years, it has seized more than 2.8 billion illegal cigarettes and more than 439 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco, resulting in 548 successful prosecutions.