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Man falls overboard during high-speed tobacco chase at sea

A passenger on a small RHIB involved in tobacco smuggling fell into the sea during a high-speed chase at night in the harbour basin.

The incident happened after officers from HM Customs moved in to stop a smuggling operation in the area of the Small Boats Marina.

Officers on land arrested five persons on suspicion of being involved in the illegal exportation of a commercial quantity of cigarettes.

As they made the arrests, two Customs patrol vessels moved in to intercept a small RHIB with two people on board and loaded with boxes of tobacco.

According to Customs, the coxswain on the RHIB performed evasive manoeuvres at speed in a bid to escape the two patrol boats.

It was during one of those manoeuvres that the passenger fell into the sea, along with three cases of tobacco containing 150 cartons of cigarettes in total.

The passenger was rescued and arrested on suspicion of involvement in several tobacco-related offences linked to the cigarettes recovered from the sea.

The second person managed to flee toward Spain.

“This incident is another reminder of the risks taken by the smugglers engaged in this illicit activity and the difficult and dangerous scenarios that officers find themselves bravely working in, both on land and at sea,” HM Customs said in a statement.

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