ILLEGAL cigarettes and tobacco was seized from shops in Blackburn, Burnley and Accrington by customs officers.

They uncovered 17,500 cigarettes and 2.85kg of hand-rolling tobacco, all believed to be illicit.

Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) visited 42 shops and three self-storage units in Blackburn, Burnley and Accrington on Tuesday.

The visits, supported by Trading Standards, led to suspected non-duty paid tobacco being seized including 17,500 cigarettes, 2.85kg hand-rolling tobacco and 1,092 cigars, with an estimated £5,781 duty evaded.

A small amount of alcohol, counterfeit perfume and Class C drugs were also seized. Seizures were made from 11 of the premises visited.

Tim Atkins, assistant director, fraud investigation service, HMRC, said: “The sale of illegal tobacco will not be tolerated by us or our partner agencies.

"Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2.5 billion a year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.

“We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to report it online or call the Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”