AN ATTEMPT to smuggle more than three million cigarettes into the UK has been foiled by Border Force officers at the Port of Purfleet.
The criminals responsible had concealed the 3,251,080 mixed brand cigarettes inside water storage heaters that had been shipped to the UK from Zeebrugge inside a trailer.
Had the smuggling attempt proved successful it could have cost the Government nearly £900,000 in unpaid duty.
Mark Kennedy, Border Force Assistant Director at Purfleet, said: "An X-ray of the trailer first indicated that the heaters may not be all that they seemed, but it was only further physical examinations and ultimately drilling into one of pieces that confirmed the presence of tobacco.
"This was a sophisticated smuggling attempt and by stopping the shipment we have starved those responsible of the proceeds of their criminality.
"I would urge anyone tempted by cheap cigarettes and tobacco to think again. The black market cheats honest traders and it is effectively stealing from the public purse."
The seizure was made on Friday, June 13 and so far no arrests have been made.
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 various 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 which would otherwise end up causing harm to local people, businesses and communities.
Anyone with information about activity they suspect may be linked to smuggling can call our hotline on 0800 59 5000.