LONDON: Police have seized almost 75,000 illegal cigarettes with a street value if £38,000 during a sting operation in Burton.
In a multi-agency move, police officers teamed up with Trading Standards officials after receiving intelligence about the illegal tobacco trading.
In what is still an ongoing operation to combat the sale of illicit and counterfeit tobacco in East Staffordshire, 74,571 cigarettes and 13.85 kg of hand-rolling tobacco were confiscated. The seizure, with an estimated street value of £38,367 was made on Wednesday November 25, by Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards officers.
Three retail premises and a residential property were searched.
Trading Standards officers were supported by Staffordshire Police, the UK Border Force and specialist dog handling team Wagtail UK, which uses dogs to sniff out the illegal cigarettes.
Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards leader Gill Heath said: “The sale of counterfeit and illicit tobacco is a crime which damages our communities and harms legitimate businesses and we will take action against traders who knowingly sell it.
“This latest raid demonstrates that we take this issue seriously and will target our resources where we know the sale of illegal and sometimes dangerous tobacco and alcohol is going on.
“We are now able to reinvest money recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act too which is good news as we’re helping to keep people safe at no extra cost.
“The availability of illegal tobacco in Staffordshire is no greater than anywhere else but does present a significant problem.
“In the UK, it is estimated that about 1 in 10 of all cigarettes and half of all hand-rolling tobacco are not duty paid.
“The illegal trade in tobacco also has strong links to organised crime and illicit tobacco can have a devastating effect on health.”
Last year, Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards team uncovered around 100,000 illegal cigarettes and 25kg of illegal tobacco with an estimated street value of £50,000 in addition to several seizures of illicit alcohol.
This latest raid was part of Operation Trivium 5, an international campaign to disrupt the criminal activities of foreign nationals in the United Kingdom.
As well as cigarettes, dozens of illegal cars have been taken off the roads as part of the operation.
Operation Trivium launched in summer 2013, with just a handful of UK police forces taking part.
Back then, the week-long arrest tally stood at just over 100 but the latest running of Trivium in June saw almost 900 foreign offenders arrested – including 94 in the West Midlands – and more than 600 vehicles seized.
Working from a command centre in Edgbaston, Birmingham, several UK agencies link in with intelligence experts at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague to provide police patrols on UK roads with a complete picture on any suspects they encounter.
Immigration officials, the National Crime Agency and Border Force all share information during the week-long campaign, which ran from Monday, November 23 to Friday, November 27.
Police also use Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras to pick up cars driving without insurance, or MOTs.