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    Huge haul of illegal cigarettes, vapes seized in Gateshead

    Image from Gateshead Council

    Tens of thousands of illicit cigarettes and vapes have recently been seized by police and Trading Standards officers in Gateshead.

    According to Gateshead Council, officers from Northumbria Police, working alongside partners at Gateshead Council, made the discovery at shops on Rawling Road, in Bensham, as part of ongoing Operation Vienna.

    After executing a warrant, officers found a concealed loft space area between two stores which was being used to pass illicit products. During the operation, officers found 27,200 illicit cigarettes, 8.5kg of hand-rolled tobacco as well as 63 illegal vapes.

    A total of £350 in cash was also taken from one of the shop’s tills and a card reader machine. The haul represents between £15,000 and £20,000-worth of illicit items and cash seized.

    Established several years ago, Operation Vienna brings police and partners in the local authority closer together, with the aim of ensuring that crime, disorder and antisocial behaviour is kept at a minimum, and also that issues affecting residents are dealt with and intelligence is shared by partner organisations.

    Speaking about the operation, Inspector Gillian Menzies, of Northumbria Police, said, “This is another great result for our teams working alongside colleagues in the local authority as part of Op Vienna. The operation was launched so that we have a robust and effective plan in place to tackle criminality in Bensham and we’re pleased to see that it continues to uncover illicit items which should not be for sale in any premises.

    “As the public can see, we are not stopping in targeting these gangs even though we continue to find even more sophisticated concealments in shops.

    “No-one in any of our communities should have to tolerate criminality and as a Force we will do all we can to tackle it, acting on any information supplied to us to take the appropriate action.”

    Insp Menzies added, “It is important to stress that our efforts in this area don’t end here and we will continue to work with our partners in the local authority and help to take harmful and illegal items out of circulation.

    “Some people might not see buying counterfeit cigarettes or vapes as an issue, but the truth is that the proceeds from the sales of these products are often re-invested into much more serious and organised crime. By removing the profits from these groups, we take away the power and standing they have in the community.

    “I’d urge anyone with information on this type of criminality to contact us and let us know so that we can build up out intelligence picture and continue to root out this kind of activity.”

    Anneliese Hutchinson, Service Director for Service Director Climate Change, Compliance, Planning and Transport at Gateshead Council, said, “Removing this quantity of illegal tobacco and vape products from the streets is a great outcome for Gateshead and another example of the council and police working together to keep our communities safe.

    “Illegal tobacco sales are very harmful as they can make smoking more accessible to children, they can also fund serious organised crime. That’s why Gateshead Council is backing the national Keep it Out campaign, which encourages people to anonymously report any suspected illegal tobacco sales where you live, so with our policing partners we can take swift and decisive action to bring those responsible to justice and stop these criminals profiting from their illegal activity.”

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