Steel girder used to smuggle cigarettes

Tobacco concealment

cigarette packets spilling out of open end of hollow girder

In 2002 a tobacco smuggling operation was uncovered in Blackburn. It could have earned the criminals an estimated profit of £3.5 million, and a duty loss of about £2 million!

32 steel girders had been used to smuggle 2.5 million cigarettes. The related paperwork suggested that the girders had probably been used at least 7 times. They were constructed in Poland and shipped to Hull, before ending up in a Blackburn warehouse.

The authorities received complaints from local residents about strange noises in the night. On investigation by the police and customs, hundreds of packets of cigarettes were discovered concealed within the steel girders. The strange noises had been made when the metal flanges were removed to gain access to the cigarettes, and they had struck the hard floor of the warehouse.

The girders could have only been made for one purpose - smuggling. An engineer's inspection revealed the girders were not suitable for building use. This shows the level of investment gangs are prepared to make in the illegal trade to ensure a profit.

Accession number CENM2004.2