Almost 4,000 packs of illicit cigarettes have been discovered following a series of investigations in Kettering, Corby, Wellingborough and Northampton.
During October, Northamptonshire County Council’s trading standards service, supported by Northamptonshire Police, HM Revenue & Customs and the UK Border Authority, targeted shops where there was reliable intelligence that illicit tobacco was being sold.
During the warrants, which were executed at 11 premises, officers found around 3,800 packs of illicit cigarettes and around 240 packs of illicit hand rolling tobacco.
Officers were accompanied by a dog handler and a specially-trained sniffer dog to identify where tobacco was being hidden as illicit tobacco is often stored in cleverly concealed locations, such as under floorboards, tiled floors, behind toilets or in specially adapted compartments within fridges and freezers.
Cabinet member for public protection, strategic infrastructure and economic growth Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage said: “Illicit tobacco is either smuggled or counterfeit, or both, so it harms the interests of honest businesses, not to mention all of us taxpayers, as it is sold far cheaper than legitimate tobacco. Illicit tobacco may also not comply with requirements for reduced ignition propensity which attempts to reduce the number of house fires caused by cigarettes.”
All tobacco sold in the UK must have certain warnings in English and also a picture warning, so anyone buying this illegal tobacco will know straight away that it is not legal. The smuggling of tobacco costs the UK economy nearly £2billion and is often linked to other organised criminal activity such as drugs and people trafficking and money laundering. More than 20 per cent of cigarettes smoked in the East Midlands avoid UK tax.
The penalty for these offences could include thousands of pounds in fines and even imprisonment. In addition, premises with alcohol licenses could have them revoked.
Anyone offered cheap tobacco or any other types of illicit goods or seeing them being supplied can report it, anonymously if preferred, to trading standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 04 05 06 or via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or details can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.