A 49-YEAR-OLD Oswaldtwistle man has appeared before Blackburn magistrates in connection with a £3.2million fraud involving duty on cigarettes and tobacco.

Lee Preston Foster, of Highfield Close, is charged that between November 2010 and April 2014 he fraudulently evaded duty on 4,597,000 cigarettes and 2,979 kilogrammes of hand rolling tobacco and between May 2014 and September 2014 fraudulently evaded duty on 2,011,200 cigarettes and 415 kilograms of hand rolling tobacco. He was sent on bail to Preston Crown Court.

A 60-year-old Wigan man appeared separately charged with fraudulently evading £79,000 worth of duty on 171,000 cigarettes and 240 kilograms of hand rolling tobacco. Kenneth Blakeley, of Mersey Road, Orrell, Wigan, was also sent to Preston Crown Court where both men will appear on June 12.

Both cases are part of a bigger police operation involving police and customs and excise.