CUSTOMS and police have smashed an illegal York booze and cigarettes den, which they believe was supplying smuggled goods to children as young as 12.

Customs officers say nearly 50,000 cigarettes, 44 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco and 34 litres of spirits and wine were seized during a raid at the house in Danesfort Avenue, Acomb.

A man aged 47 and a woman aged 49 were arrested for suspected duty evasion.

They were released on bail yesterday evening pending further inquiries.

A Hyundai car, in which some of the cigarettes were stashed, has been confiscated.

Customs bosses said goods valued at more than £12,000 were found during the raid, which follows a tip-off and an eight-month intelligence gathering operation.

They believe that cut-price cigarettes and alcohol were being illegally sold to local residents, including young children, making the house a focus for nuisance behaviour. A spokes-man said: "We believe many of these goods were being sold to young people aged under 16. Selling alcohol and cigarettes to minors is not only wrong, but encourages them in antisocial behaviour.

"We are working with North Yorkshire Police to target people who sell smuggled and illegal goods in this manner."

The raid began at 9am on Saturday morning when eight Customs and Excise officers and four York Police officers arrived at the semi-detached property with a search warrant.

The team spent four hours searching the property. A haul of allegedly smuggled goods was catalogued and taken away for further examination.

PC Derek Bone, who is York Police ward manager for Westfield, said: "One of my concerns as ward manager was that the youths going to this address were contributing to antisocial behaviour in the area.

"People may think there's little chance of getting caught for this type of crime, but this shows that's simply not the case.

"It also underlines that if people come to the police with information about criminal or antisocial activity we will act on it."

A neighbour said officers returned on Sunday and loaded a moped from the property on to a lorry.

One said: "They were a quiet couple, but they had a lot of visitors. We knew something was going on."

Updated: 10:45 Monday, May 03, 2004