Security nabs 20,000 cigarettes

Christmas brings out the worst in people. Whether it is overindulgence, impromptu spending sprees, or smuggling thousands of hooky cigarettes past Newcastle Airport security, somebody always winds up in trouble.

The latter might seem like a silly joke, something to tide you over the frosty New Year, but Newcastle is no stranger to yuletide crooks, having reclaimed millions of cigarettes over the past five years, and enough fake medication to stun a diplodocus.

On Christmas Day 2009, border staff arrested six people, who were trying to smuggle 20,000 cigarettes and 200kg of rolling tobacco through airport security. Estimates put the total unpaid duty at £33,000.

Her Majesty’s officials were not impressed – “A haul like this would have defrauded the Government and the taxpayer out of vital funds for services, as well as undermining genuine manufacturers and shops plying an honest trade.”

December’s incident recalls a similar event in 2005, when security staff found two million cigarettes inside 146 suitcases, all arriving from Tenerife.

Earlier in the week, around 80,000 Sildenafil tablets were also seized from crates bound for Newcastle Airport. The tablets replicate the effects of Viagra, but officials noted that smuggled medicines are often counterfeit or otherwise damaging to human health.

Such a large haul of Sildenafil could have netted the culprits around £300,000 on the black market. The pills have since been destroyed.

Airport bosses have pleaded with would-be criminals to rethink their cheating ways, and consider that drug and cigarette running is often a piggybank for larger criminal activities, such as terrorism and people trafficking.

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