Leicester

Record cigarette haul at East Midlands Airport

More than 300,000 cigarettes have been confiscated by the UK Border Agency at East Midlands Airport, in what they say is their biggest seizure to date there.

Customs officers discovered 301,960 cigarettes and 6kg of hand rolling tobacco in the suitcases of 16 British passengers returning from Tenerife.

The smugglers would have spent £30,000 on cigarettes in Tenerife and could have sold them for £90,000 in the UK.

The previous record stood from 2004 when 252,000 cigarettes were seized.

Wheelchair walk

In a statement, the UK Border Agency said on 22 November, one of the 16 passengers was escorted in a wheelchair to the customs checkpoint by airport staff.

Her suitcase was opened to reveal a stash of cigarettes. "The discovery startled the passenger so much that she walked out of her wheelchair," the statement continued.

Alex Lawther, UK Border Agency assistant director, said: "This is a major seizure that reflects the robust controls we have in place at all ports and airports to keep drugs and weapons and contraband out of the country.

"The smuggling of cigarettes is often linked to serious organised crime and can provide the funding for much larger criminal operations such as drug smuggling or people trafficking."

No criminal charges have been brought against the people caught smuggling the cigarettes as it was not deemed to be "in the public interest". Their names have been added to border watch lists which alert officials when smugglers make future journeys.

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