THREE MEN were arrested and almost £20,000 worth of alcohol and tobacco seized during a customs and excise operation in Burnley.

A car and a minibus believed to have been used to transport the haul were also seized as part of the operation code-named Norfolk.

Three premises were searched by customs and excise officers from the Blackburn fraud unit.

They found several hundred pouches of tobacco from Belgium, hundreds of cases of beer from France, a substantial quantity of imported wine and some spirits.

The men, from the Burnley area, were arrested on suspicion of evading excise duty by importing and dealing in goods on which the excise duties had not been paid.

They were released on bail pending inquiries into further possible smuggling offences and other offences.

Fred Simmons, the senior customs official in charge of the Blackburn team, said: "This operation was a great success. It is our third significant result in as many weeks - the two previous operations were mounted in the Fylde.

"These success coincide with last week's announcement by the Government that we intend to crack down on cross-Channel alcohol and tobacco smuggling. We are determined to deal with those involved in the illicit trade in excise goods. The smugglers cannot be complacent once they have cleared the Channel ports.

"Teams such as ours are located throughout the country and will deal with anyone handling or dealing in illicit alcohol and tobacco."

Anyone who has been offered or has bought what they think may be illicit tobacco or alcohol is asked to contact the customs office on 01254 347666.

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