X-ray reveals seven million bootleg cigarettes in container at Hull docks
ONE of the biggest hauls of bootleg cigarettes has been seized by Britain's anti-smuggling agency at the Port of Hull.
Border Force officers found an estimated seven million cigarettes stuffed inside a fuel tank container shipped from St Petersburg, which they selected for closer inspection.
An X-ray and subsequent search revealed the 20ft tanker was filled with hessian sacks with millions of cigarettes stuffed inside.
Thursday's find came just weeks after Border Force found 5.7 million cigarettes in a trailer, also at the Port of Hull.
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Last night, specialists were still examining the latest haul.
Sam Bullimore, a Border Force spokesman, said: "Because of the nature of the concealment, specialist officers have had to be called in to complete the search.
"We are still waiting for a final figure but, based on the weight of the container, we estimate it could hold as many as seven million cigarettes.
"The smugglers clearly hoped that what appeared to be a fuel tanker would come under less scrutiny than a standard container, but our officers are trained to expect the unexpected."
No arrests have yet been made.
Mr Bullimore said cigarette smuggling costs the taxpayer millions of pounds each year. He said: "Tobacco smuggling is not victimless. It is effectively stealing from the public purse, at a time when the country can least afford it."
If the haul had not been intercepted, it is thought it could have cost the treasury about £1.75m in unpaid excise duty.
Mr Bullimore said: "Border Force officers use hi-tech search equipment to combat immigration crime and detect banned and restricted goods that smugglers attempt to bring into the country.
"They use an array of search techniques including sniffer dogs, carbon dioxide detectors, heartbeat monitors and scanners, as well as visual searches, to find well-hidden stowaways, illegal drugs, firearms and tobacco that would otherwise end up causing harm to local people, businesses and communities."
According to the latest available figures, Border Force seized more than 650 million cigarettes and 314,775 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco at the UK border during the financial year 2010-11.
Anyone with information about activity they suspect may be linked to smuggling should call 0800 595000.