MORE than 11,000 illegal cigarettes have been seized in a crackdown on shops throughout Burton.
A team from Staffordshire County Council trading standards, Staffordshire Police and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) carried out a search on Wednesday, confiscating items – which included a quantity of hand rolling tobacco – from seven stores.
Many of the packets were found concealed in specially adapted till trays, while others were also discovered inside a cooker hob and behind a false wall inside a cupboard. However, it has been confirmed that no arrests were made.
HMRC revealed to the Mail that many of the cigarettes seized were ‘illegal whites’ – made purely for smuggling and often obtained by organised crime gangs who bring them into the UK.
The cigarettes, which include the brands Jin Ling, L & Ms and Master, are then sold illegally in residential areas, including pubs and clubs. Some independent retail shops also put the items up for sale, although they are usually hidden from the public view.
While a legal packet of 20 cigarettes can be sold by retailers for anywhere between £7 and £10, the Jin Ling brand has previously been sold for as little as £4.25. The duty lost through the sale of the illegal cigarettes haul recovered in Burton was estimated at £3,300
Assistant director of criminal investigations at HMRC, Carolyn Norsworthy, said: “Low cost tobacco products can often seem very attractive to local people, lured into purchasing them at what seem like bargain prices.
“However, the truth is these goods have been smuggled and these sales are unlicensed and unregulated. Those involved are not concerned if they are selling to children and underage young people.
“The illicit trade has a devastating impact on legitimate retailers and the local community.”
Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council cabinet support member for environment and rural affairs said: “Staffordshire Trading Standards are continuously working to fight against the trade in counterfeit goods.
“Together with our partners we will seek out every opportunity to disrupt the criminals and protect the public and Staffordshire’s economy.”
Anyone who notices illegal cigarettes or alcohol for sale is asked to call the customs hotline on 0800 59 5000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org