News story

Smuggled tomatoes donated to zoo

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Rare tortoises from Cochester Zoo are enjoying tomatoes given to them by the UK Border Agency.

The mixture of cherry and globe tomatoes had been used to cover more than ten million cigarettes, which smugglers attempted to bring into the UK earlier this month.

Had the plot been successful, the criminals behind it would have cost the UK £2m in unpaid VAT and excise duty.

Productive use

Brian Hill, UK Border Agency assistant director at the Port of Felixstowe, said that officers often find productive uses for items found as part of smuggling plots.

‘Clearly, our first priority is to disrupt the smuggling operation,’ he explained. ‘But when we make seizures like this we will also try and find a productive use for the cover load. 
‘Obviously, tomatoes discovered in this fashion are unsuitable for public consumption, but I am pleased that they seem to have gone down very well with the tortoises at Colchester Zoo.’

Grateful for donation

Anthony Tropeano, zoological director at Colchester, said: ‘Our annual bill for feeding the many endangered species is well over £200,000, so we are very grateful for this unusual donation. 

‘Our rare tortoises and other reptiles are now thoroughly enjoying tucking into the tomatoes.’