A seizure of over 17,000 illicit cigarettes and 4.5kg of hand rolling tobacco has been confiscated by Essex Trading Standards, working in partnership with Essex Police in Harlow town centre.
As a part of ongoing Trading Standards work, the raid to seek out illegal tobacco complimented a 12 week crackdown by Essex Police who are working to tackle criminal behaviour in the town centre.
The operation today was intelligence led and the retail premises targeted are well known persistent sellers of illicit tobacco. The tobacco today was found both concealed within walls and in vehicles connected with the shop and was sniffed out by trained detection dogs - Scampi and Yoyo of BWY Canine.
Cllr Susan Barker, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member with a responsibility for Trading Standards, said: “The importance of this work cannot be underestimated and it would not happen without the help and support of the people of Essex.
“We are finding that more and more criminal businesses are using sophisticated means to conceal illicit tobacco, often investing significant sums of money into their installation.
“Today, Essex Trading Standards are sending out a clear message that repeated criminal behaviour of this kind will not be tolerated. We will continue to work hard with our partners to clamp down on the sale of illegal tobacco.”
Inspector Tony Walker from Essex Police, said: “Today’s operation saw thousands of counterfeit cigarettes removed from shops looking to make a financial gain by operating illegally while taking trade away from other businesses.”
Both businesses searched today have been issued with notices and the seized tobacco will be destroyed.
Far from being a victimless crime, the illicit tobacco trade has been known to encourage children to start smoking, to take advantage of cash-strapped families, and to help fund organised crime.
Smoking is the primary cause of preventable illness and death in the UK. If you are looking to give up, please visit the Living Well website
for advice on how to take action.