Some store owners are going the extra mile to hide illegal products in their store, as suggested by a recent report which revealed a shop’s extravagant way of hiding more than £10,000 worth of illicit cigarettes, tobacco, and vapes inside a secret cabinet.
Derbyshire Trading Standards officers and Derbyshire Police discovered how the owners had gone to extraordinary lengths to try and keep counterfeit products hidden, installing a kitchen counter on hydraulic legs that would raise and lower at the push of a button.
According to Derby City Council, officers on Nov 7 carried out a joint operation with Derbyshire Police and a sniffer dog searching premises across Derby. Usually, they find illicit products hidden behind skirting boards or cupboards but at one of the shops, the owner had gone to extraordinarily lengths to try and keep the dodgy products hidden, installing a kitchen counter on hydraulic legs that would raise and lower at the push of a button.
When sniffer dog indicated the possibility of the stash, officers looked further and found more than £10,000 worth of illicit cigarettes, tobacco and vapes.
In all, Trading Standards have seized 791,000 cigarettes and almost 140kg of hand rolling tobacco in the past year. This work has also led to an additional 5,082 illegal vapes being taken off the shelves. Altogether these seized products have an estimated value of almost £620,000.
Councilor Shiraz Khan, Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regulatory Services, said, “I’m incredibly proud of the work our Trading Standards team are doing to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco products.
“These products undermine the health of adults and children around the city, but we will continue to work hard tackling this issue. It is reassuring to know that no matter how elaborate the hiding places may become, our officers, and their partners, are able to track down and seize these illicit products before they reach citizens.”
Although selling illicit and counterfeit products may seem like a victimless crime, it is far from it.
Counterfeit tobacco products can be sold for a lower price, allowing people to smoke more for less money and undermining national efforts to reduce smoking. This can be hugely detrimental to public health, particularly in Derby where we have a high rate of smoking.
Illicit tobacco also evades tax, leaving less money available to fund vital services, including ones directly impacted by smoking related issues such as healthcare.
The organised crime gangs that bring these products into the country are often linked with human trafficking, modern slavery, and the sale of other dangerous products.