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Fake cigarettes sold over counters in Scotland are being used to fuel organised crime across the globe, a former top detective has warned.

Illicit cigarettes currently make up around 13 per cent of the market in the UK, HMRC figures show - a six-year high.

And retired Scotland Yard DCI Will O'Reilly said there were "a number of consequences" to the illicit trade, which often operates secretly within otherwise legitimate businesses. As well as corner shops and sellers based in pubs, Facebook is being widely utilised to flog illegal tobacco shipped in from Poland and beyond.

Mr O'Reilly said the black market trade cost taxpayers billions in lost revenue, adding: "That shortfall has got to be made up somehow. And that costs every one of us."

HMRC estimates the illicit tobacco trade costs the taxpayer £2.4 billion every year. But lost cash isn't the only drawback, according to Mr O'Reilly.

He said: "You've then got the fact that there's organised crime involvement.

"[Fake cigarettes] are hauled in by organised crime [gangs] and profits are reinvested in their criminal enterprises. As a detective, I saw towards the end of my service that people were turning away from perhaps more risky enterprises like drug smuggling, and into smuggling cigarettes because the profit margins are great and the risk is smaller.

"It's over a million pounds in profit for every container they can get in. Tentacles of risks with some of these products not only in the ingredients, but also [because] they don't contain any fire retardant measures."

"The fire brigade have put down hundreds of house fires to people smoking these illicit cigarettes because they don't go out like a normal cigarette must do now if it's left unattended."