Cigarette smugglers offer free holidays - East Midlands,Newcastle Airport News

Airport news for East Midlands,Newcastle on 07/09/2009.

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The smuggling of cigarettes into Britain has become so lucrative that criminals are enticing young women to traffic tobacco with offers of free holidays abroad.

UK border officials have reported seizing up to 50 million cigarettes each month, and have evidence that criminal syndicates are enticing young girls to carry the goods for them with flights to Spain, hotels and spending money.

Police have said that the girls – as young as 15 years old – are being encouraged to use smaller, regional airports, such as East Midlands, Exeter and Newcastle – in order to avoid being caught. They have also indicated that the Canary Islands are currently the top destination for smugglers.

Gangs reserve cheap flights in advance and provide empty suitcases for the girls to fill with as many cigarettes as they can carry.

A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said that the young girls are generally not aware that they are working for violent criminals in what is becoming one of the most rapidly growing forms of organised crime in Europe.

He added: “Cigarette smuggling is a serious organised crime and often provides the funding for much larger criminal operations such as drug smuggling or people trafficking.”

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