Counterfeit cigarettes a problem for Birmingham - Birmingham Airport News

Airport news for Birmingham on 24/04/2008.

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This year officials at Birmingham Airport have discovered a large array of contraband goods hidden in some surprising places. Leather couches, soft toys and lunch boxes have been known to contain items such as guns, knives, animals, drugs and false passports. The most commonly smuggled item through Birmingham, however, is cigarettes, both genuine and counterfeit.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) recently joined forces with Smokefree Alliance groups to launch a campaign against counterfeit cigarettes.

Freight team leader for HMRC at Birmingham Airport, Jim Ferguson, said: "There is no such thing as a normal day."

"Freight is trade and we have a responsibility not to hold up legitimate goods. We can have consignments come through with a legitimate name, but with illegitimate contents.

"So we look for abnormalities - things which are not right tend to stick out. And if we are lucky once, we will continue being lucky because we will know what to look for.

"They [the smugglers] don't always think the whole process through, and coupled with that, they don't think we are as good as we are."

In 2007, in the West Midlands area alone, customs officers seized over 50 million illegal cigarettes in addition to almost 4,250 kilos of tobacco for hand rolled cigarettes. An estimated 70 per cent of the cigarettes seized were counterfeit.

Many counterfeit cigarettes are produced in bonded labour factories in China and Eastern Europe and have been found to contain high levels of dangerous chemicals, as well as sawdust, beetles and rat droppings.

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