09 September 2011

Illegal tobacco and alcohol have both been seized from Wellingborough following a joint operation by Northamptonshire County Council’s trading standards service and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Earlier this week trading standards officers joined forces with HMRC and a representative of Imperial Tobacco and visited Wellingborough to search for illegal tobacco and alcohol. They were joined by two trained sniffer dogs, Levi and Tyler, who helped search for stashes of illegal goods hidden within shops.

Thanks to the help of the dogs, searches uncovered quantities of suspected illegal spirits and an air conditioning unit was found being used to hide counterfeit cigarettes. Further cigarettes were detected beneath the plinth of a sideboard cupboard located in a back storeroom.

From the inspection of six premises officers took 3,000 cigarettes, 100g of hand rolling tobacco, over 60 litres of vodka and over 30 litres of wine. All suspect goods were seized by HMRC and this will be followed up in conjunction with trading standards.

Councillor Ben Smith, county council cabinet member for environment said: “I am pleased with the results of this trading standards joint operation.

“Targeting any businesses selling illegal tobacco or alcohol will remain a priority for trading standards as it damages both the national and local economy, honest businesses as well as putting the health of the public at risk.

“If anyone suspects shops of selling illegal goods don’t hesitate to report this to trading standards by calling Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.”

Previous examples of counterfeit tobacco have been shown to contain high levels of lead and arsenic.

The trade in smuggled and counterfeit tobacco and alcohol is a problem across the country and the issue was recently highlighted by the deaths at the illegal alcohol plant in Boston, Lincolnshire.

The illegal trade in tobacco smuggling costs the taxpayer around £2 billion a year in lost revenue and harms honest traders and those who buy the goods as often the products are contaminated and dangerous.

Keith Morgan, for HMRC, said: “We have teams working across Northamptonshire to disrupt those selling counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes and alcohol. The action of those selling these goods deprives the public purse of much needed money to fund vital public services such as hospitals and schools. The proceeds from cigarette and alcohol smuggling are often used to fund serious and organised crime such as drug smuggling. The illicit trade breeds contempt for the law by encouraging otherwise honest people to trade with criminals.

"We are keen to work closely with local people and communities in the fight against crime. Individuals with information relating to illegally imported goods or tax evasion and fraud are encouraged to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”