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Address in Formby among those raided as five men are arrested by police

Police uncover a drugs factory during probe into tax fraud involving smuggled cigarettes and fake vodka. An address in Formby was among those raided as five men were arrested by police.

HMRC dismantle fake vodka bottling plant Aintree, Police officers found a drugs factory as they carried out raids as part of an investigation into a suspected £100,000 tax fraud.

The crime involved smuggled cigarettes, an illegal vodka factory and money laundering.

It led to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers raiding an address in Formby, as five men - aged 39, 44, 47, 48 and 55 - were arrested and taken away for questioning.

Detectives also knocked on doors in Knotty Ash, Mossley Hill, Walton, and Woolton on Tuesday.

Five men, Prior to the arrests, HMRC officers had also uncovered a suspected substantial tax credit fraud. Merseyside Police and Merseyside Fire Service were called in to deal with the chemicals discovered at a suspected amphetamine laboratory.

Previously as part of the ongoing investigation HMRC in March this year seized 199,780 suspected counterfeit Mayfair King cigarettes in the Aintree area, which was worth £56,138.68 in evaded Excise Duty and VAT.

In July a fake vodka bottling plant in Aintree was dismantled and bottles labelled as No 01 Imperial Vodka Blue were seized. It was worth an estimated £45,000 in unpaid Excise Duty.

The illicit factory located in an industrial unit in Aintree

Subsequent chemical tests found the alcohol, although not toxic, contained compounds that should not be present in vodka.

Angela McCalmon, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “We will continue to act to disrupt suspected criminal activity. This investigation is still at an early stage but shows the spectrum of suspected crimes that can be uncovered in one enquiry."

“HMRC will work closely with our partners to ensure there is no further risk to public health or the public purse from these suspected activities. Dealing in illicit tobacco and alcohol harms honest businesses and steals money destined for public services. It is important that anyone in the area with information about the illegal trade in tobacco or alcohol reports it to our Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

Anyone with information regarding fraud can contact the new HMRC Fraud hotline on 0800 788 887 or report it online here.

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