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    Jail for Cardiff illegal tobacco crime gang

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    Five members of a crime gang, which used corner shops to sell illegal tobacco, cigarettes and nitrous oxide, have been jailed. Five others involved in the group were given suspended sentences.

    The group used a number of stores in Cardiff, Barry and Bridgend as a front for their business. It allowed them to launder money totaling £1.8 million between September 2013 and February 2022 in what is thought to be one of the biggest cases of illegal tobacco smuggling in Wales. During an operation, officers from Cardiff, Bridgend and Vale Councils’ Shared Regulatory Services seized £600,000 of illegal tobacco and £12,500 of nitrous oxide canisters.

    Most shops were in Cardiff, including European Mini Market on Tudor Street, and The Best European Food shop on Clifton Street. The group also used Apna Bazaar Bridgend Ltd on Dunraven Place in Bridgend and Barry Stores on Tynewydd Road in Barry.

    The court heard how the shops appeared to sell genuine products, but instead were being used to hide large amounts of illegal tobacco which was being sold to customers, including children.

    Tobacco was kept in secure units or at the homes of the defendants, and it was transported by cars with blacked out windows to the shops late at night. Once inside the shop it was kept in secret compartments which were locked by remote controlled electric magnets and could only be found by sniffer dogs or by breaking through walls.

    Sentencing, Judge Huw Rees said the group ran a “lucrative cash business” and made determined efforts to hide their products, adding there were many victims of their trading. The operation against the gang started in February 2020, after reports of several shops selling illegal tobacco and nitrous oxide.

    Helen Picton, head of shared regulatory services said, “Although they thought they were operating with impunity, what they didn’t know is that they were being monitored and as the two trials showed, there was overwhelming evidence for the juries to find them guilty of these offences.

    “It was clear from the investigation that they believed they were entitled to carry out their fraudulent business and showed little remorse. Illegal tobacco does great harm in the community and offenders need to know that they will face consequences if they choose to deal in these illegal products.”

    Sergeant Jake Rollnick from South Wales Police said, “This operation is a perfect example of how South Wales Police works with partners to relentlessly pursue criminals in our communities.”

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