TWO men have been arrested on suspicion of attempting to smuggle 10 million cigarettes into the UK through Tilbury Docks.
Officers from HM Revenue & Customs performed dawn raids at properties across the South East on Thursday morning.
HMRC has also released CCTV pictures of another man believed to be connected to the alleged crime and appealed for information about him.
Three residential properties in Lewisham and Woolwich, in London, and Folkestone, Kent were targeted this morning, following a three month HMRC investigation.
UK Border Agency officers uncovered the attempt to smuggle a container load of legitimate and counterfeit cigarettes into Tilbury Docks, Essex, on 18 July 2011. The matter was immediately referred to HMRC.
John Pointing, HMRC Assistant Director Criminal Investigation, said: “These arrests follow a number of lines of enquiry pursued since the cargo container packed full of cigarettes was seized in July. We made one other arrest in September, but are now asking for the public’s help.
“We are releasing CCTV pictures of another man we believe could be involved. The pictures taken in the Orpington area of Kent show an individual in a bank making a payment, which may be linked to importing the container of smuggled cigarettes. We would like to trace and interview this person about their possible involvement, or otherwise, in the importation.
“The smuggling and sale of illicit tobacco costs the UK taxpayer around £2billion a year in lost revenue, money that should be funding vital public services. Anyone who can help with our investigation should contact the Customs’ Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
In September a British man was arrested in Orpington as part of the same investigation.
It is estimated £1.8 million in duty has been evaded on the cigarettes, which arrived in Tilbury by cargo container from Dubai. HMRC enquiries are ongoing.