EXCLUSIVE: Police stumble upon haul of 160,000 Russian cigarettes in Wisbech home

LICENSING officer Dave Bax shows off a haul of 160,000 Russian cigarettes... which police found crammed in the bedroom of a house in Wisbech.

Officers seized the cigarettes on Friday, suspecting that no duty had been paid on them. The find came as the crackdown on illegal and counterfeit goods in Fenland continued to bite.

Police had joined forces with Fenland District Council to conduct licensing checks on more than 20 shops, pubs and restaurants in Wisbech.

But it was during some “door-knocking” in the area that officers stumbled upon the Russian Marlboro, L&M and Jin Ling cigarettes and about �6,000 in cash.

Sergeant Bax said: “It is quite a significant find and it took us a bit by surprise. You don’t expect to find that number of cigarettes stored in someone’s house.”

Speaking about trading in illicit goods, Sgt Bax added: “This activity takes business away from hard-working local shops and steals money from the country.

“This even adds to anti-social behaviour as their customers are like ants around jam. They are the same ones who buy cans and tins (alcohol) from shops and swig them in our parks and streets.”

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HMRC are now investigating the find and a 30-year-old man from the Nottingham area has been arrested and bailed on suspicion of tax evasion.

HMRC spokesman Maddy Ratnett said: “Low cost tobacco and alcohol products can often seem very attractive to local people, lured into purchasing them at what seem like bargain prices.

“However, the truth is these goods have been smuggled and are unlicensed and unregulated.

“Those involved are not concerned if they are selling to children and underage young people and the illicit trade has a devastating impact on legitimate retailers and the local community.”

The cigarette find comes as the number of people signing up to a crackdown on illegal tobacco in Cambridgeshire topped 7,000.

Campaigners, including representatives from district councils, NHS and Trading Standards, have helped launch the initiative with events in Cambridge and Wisbech.

The campaign was launched in response to research which showed 36 per cent of people have been offered illegal tobacco in Cambridgeshire, with 8 per cent admitting to buying it.

Officers from HMRC and Trading Standards joined police for more checks in Wisbech, March and Chatteris on Tuesday.