Five arrested in £20m fraud raids

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FIVE men were arrested in a series of dawn raids in South Yorkshire by customs officers investigating a £20m illegal tobacco fraud.

About 60 investigators from HM Revenue and Customs swooped on homes in South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire on Friday morning.

Commercial and residential properties in Doncaster, Retford and Newark were targeted in the operation, which was supported by local police.

The aim of the investigation - codenamed Hornbeam - is to track down those evading excise duty on cigarettes and tobacco.

Those suspected of money laundering were also targeted.

Two men, aged 27 and 26 were arrested in Doncaster, a 47-year-old man was arrested in Newark and two men, aged 27 and 23, were arrested in Retford.

Peter Hollier, HMRC’s assistant director for criminal investigation, said: “The raids are the culmination of months of work by HMRC officers involved in Operation Hornbeam.

“The activities send a clear message to those tempted to become mixed up in crimes of this nature.

“We take excise fraud and the trade in smuggled tobacco goods extremely seriously and will pursue anyone we believe to be actively involved in this type of crime.”

Investigations are ongoing.