Tens of thousands of potentially lethal illicit cigarettes, hidden in brick walls and waste bins, have been seized from a business following a crackdown in Wolverhampton this week.
According to a report released by Wolverhampton Council on Tuesday (27), officers from Trading Standards team targeted a number of businesses where the goods were believed to be on sale. Specially trained detection dogs were used to sniff out illegal tobacco products. The operation found more than 22,000 counterfeit and/or non-UK duty paid cigarettes alongside illicit vapes and other tobacco products.
The majority of the haul was from just one premise, which has not been named, where illicit goods were found in waste bins and boxes hidden in brick walls. More than 15,000 illicit cigarettes, 33 pouches of counterfeit hand rolling tobacco, 2.25kg of shisha and £5,000 in cash were discovered at the site. In addition, officers found a member of staff who was working illegally.
Other items seized from other businesses during the day of action included more than 7,000 illicit cigarettes, a further 1.2kg of hand rolling tobacco, 175 vapes and 73 packs of oral tobacco.
Retail value of the tobacco products seized is reported to be worth £15,000 and duty evaded would come to a minimum of just over £8,000.
The raids were carried out under Operation CeCe, which is a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to tackle the illegal tobacco trade. Trading Standards officers were joined by officers from West Midlands Police, immigration officials and tobacco detection dogs.
Action is set to be taken against the owners of premises where the material was seized while further investigations will be carried out to identify their suppliers.
Councillor Craig Collingswood, the council’s cabinet member for environment and climate change, said, “We carry out these operations to help protect the public from dangerous products as well as to protect our legitimate businesses.
“Counterfeit cigarettes pose even greater health risks than legitimate ones, as they can contain higher levels of nicotine, tar and heavy metals, all while being sold at pocket money prices which encourages children to purchase them.”