HM Revenue & Customs has launched a new campaign this week asking people who have information to call a Customs Hotline.
The freephone Spanish number is 900 988 922.
The message to expatriates is: You don't need to give personal details, and you may get a cash reward for useful tip-offs.
The call for help in the fight against illegal imports of cigarettes to Spain, which are often en route to the UK, comes as smugglers try to make huge profits by evading tax or by selling low-quality, counterfeit cigarettes, tobacco and other goods. Some 225 million cigarettes and several tonnes of tobacco that were destined for the UK market have been seized in Spain over the last year.
Cigarettes may look genuine, but they very often bear no relation to the brands which they pretend to represent.
Smuggled alcohol is similarly very likely to be fake.
Cards asking people to phone the Customs Hotline are now included with all passport renewals and visa applications in Spain. People with information can also send a confidential email to email@example.com or, if in the UK, can calI 0800 595 000.
Customs officers continue to catch up with fugitive smugglers in Spain. Malcolm McGowan, convicted in 2001 of smuggling 56 million cigarettes worth more than eight million pounds, was last month arrested in Valencia and will now serve his four year sentence.
Information is particularly sought about the smuggling of cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol, as well as other items such as drugs, firearms, obscene material and endangered species. Other tax frauds that HM Revenue & Customs want to hear about include betting and gaming, money laundering and the carousel VAT scam in Europe. We hope the public will help us come down hard on the smugglers and fraudsters who cheat the rest of us by not making their full contribution to the cost of public services, said an HMRC spokesman yesterday. These people are criminals who we want to catch. Spain attracts smugglers because of the large numbers of British residents, and also because it is a staging post for smuggled and counterfeit goods en route to the United Kingdom.
HM Revenue & Customs rely on information to fight smuggling and fraud, and to make sure that all citizens pay their fair contribution to the costs of society.
The cheats mean that the rest of society has to pay more to deliver the same level of public services.
Just as the British authorities are working with their Spanish counterparts to catch some of Britain's most wanted criminals, the Spanish will be assisting in this latest crackdown.