A PLOT to smuggle seven million cigarettes into the UK through Hull has been foiled by Border Force officers.
The haul was seized at 10.30am on Thursday when officers selected a tank container that had been shipped from St Petersburg, Russia, for closer inspection.
An X-ray examination and subsequent physical search revealed the 20ft tanker, which would normally have been carrying fuel, was in fact filled with hessian sacks stuffed with cigarettes.
Sam Bullimore, of Border Force, 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 that it could hold as many as seven million cigarettes.
“The smugglers clearly hoped that what ostensibly appeared to be a fuel tanker would come under less scrutiny than a standard container, but our officers are trained to expect the unexpected.”
He added: “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 and it is found to contain seven million cigarettes, it could have cost the treasury about £1.75m in unpaid excise duty, Border Force said.
Its 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 techniques, including sniffer dogs, carbon dioxide detectors, heartbeat monitors and scanners to find well-hidden stowaways, illegal drugs, firearms and tobacco.
Almost six million cigarettes were seized on a ferry arriving in Hull from Rotterdam in November. That find was made less than three weeks after the seizure of more than 10 million contraband cigarettes at Immingham.