Counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco worth £65,000 seized

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As a result of a partnership between North Lincolnshire Council and Trading Standards Institute (TSI) tobacco detection dogs have discovered 50,459 cigarettes and 7.3 kilograms of tobacco worth around £65,000 in Scunthorpe.

The illicit products were seized from three premises on Frodingham Road during raids conducted by North Lincolnshire Council’s Trading Standards working alongside Humberside Police.

This was part of Operation Henry that runs from April to September 2014 to crack down on the supply of illicit tobacco across nine regions in England.

Each region receives eight days of dog detection provided by Wagtail UK and funded by the Department of Health. The Operation is managed by Trading Standards Institute (TSI). The partnership allows trading standards officers to identify illicit tobacco ‘hot spots’ by combining intelligence.

Leon Livermore, chief executive of TSI, said: “This partnership is one more example of how trading standards works with the private and public sector to protect consumers and support legal business practices. Through this partnership, trading standards has a unique opportunity to share information and develop intelligence with the aim of taking illicit tobacco off the streets.”

The seizure included a combination of counterfeit, non-duty and ‘illicit whites’ (not real brands, they are made specifically for the illicit tobacco trade) that cannot be legally sold in the UK. The raids were conducted as a result of information provided by the public.

The three premises were entered at the same time and secured by North Lincolnshire Trading Standards and Humberside Police. The dogs were then taken to each shop in turn and then searched.

At each of the premises, secret compartments and storage areas were discovered, all containing illicit tobacco.

In total 50,459 cigarettes and 7.3 kilograms of hand rolling tobacco were seized. This is a street value of around £65,000 (based on £6 for hand rolling tobacco and £2.50 for cigarettes).

As well as evading the duty, there are safety concerns about the counterfeit and ‘illicit whites’ as there are often foreign bodies, such as plastic or dangerous additions included to bulk out the tobacco in these products. It is often the case that the cigarettes do not self-extinguish when being smoked as the genuine ones do; this has been attributed to deaths from house fires across the region in the past.

Trading Standards investigations are continuing but as always the team would welcome any information from the public on the sale of illicit tobacco from any premises or persons in North Lincolnshire.

To report any concerns you may have contact Trading Standards on 01724 297664 or email tradingstandards@northlincs.gov.uk.

Coun Nigel Sherwood, cabinet member for highways and neighbourhoods, said: “It is totally unacceptable for people to think they can get away with selling counterfeit goods – it is illegal and these people will face the consequences. Those involved in dealing in illegal tobacco may be encouraging people, including children to smoke by providing a cheap source. The detection dogs can find tobacco and cigarettes, even if hidden in the most unlikely of places.

“If you have any concerns about people or premises selling illicit goods then don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Trading Standards team to report it. We rely on the public to help catch these criminals. You can contact them on 01724 297664.

“As well as a warning for those who choose to deal in illegal products we want to provide a caution for those that buy illegal goods as they can be very dangerous. You don’t always know what is in these products, which is putting your health even more at risk. Please ensure you only buy products if you know they come from a reputable supplier. Don’t take the risk of buying counterfeit goods.

“Partnership working is vital in order to share intelligence and collaborate on joint exercises such as Operation Henry to target those areas with the highest levels of illicit tobacco activity.”