Illegal cigarettes and tobacco were discovered below a manhole cover, suspended above an open drain at the rear of a shop in Rugby.
This was the second time illegal products have been found hidden in drains after a similar seizure in Leamington Spa.
Over 44,000 cigarettes and more than 400 packets of hand-rolling tobacco were seized when Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards Officers carried out raids on two shops in Rugby town centre.
Trading Standards Officers were supported by Warwickshire Police, Immigration Officers and B.W.Y Canine specialist search dogs.
Acting on intelligence, officers visited two premises and discovered tobacco hidden in a drain, in a wheelie bin, a flat behind one of the shops and in a rear storeroom.
Trading Standards Officers used trained sniffer dogs to find the large haul which is estimated to have a fake value of £17,300 and a value if they had been genuine of £32,852.
Councillor Andy Crump, Warwickshire County Council Portfolio Holder for Fire and Rescue and Community Safety, said: “Warwickshire Trading Standards is committed to tackling the sale of illegal cigarettes and tobacco by organised criminal groups.”
“The sale of cheap illegal tobacco undermines the work that is being done to cut smoking levels and save lives.”
PC Rebecca Bailey from Warwickshire Police said: “I’m really pleased with the outcome of this operation, working closely with partner agencies to take action against the sellers of these items.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, added: “The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law. The National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HRMC is playing a significant role in disrupting this illicit trade and is helping to take illegal tobacco products off the streets.”
“It is strongly encouraged that the community do not purchase illegal cigarettes from these businesses and if they are in doubt, report any suspicious activity to the police.”
You can report the sale of illegal tobacco to Warwickshire Trading Standards via the Central England Trading Standards Authorities anonymous automated hotline: 0300 303 2636 or online: https://centsa.org.uk/anonymous-hotline/
Investigations into the two shops are ongoing.
Illegal tobacco – the issues
Health: children and young smokers are often targeted by people who sell illegal cigarettes, making it even easier for them to get hooked on smoking. The people making money out of this do not care who they sell to. The availability of illegal cigarettes also makes it harder for people to quit and remain smoke free.
Safety: young and vulnerable people are often the ones to visit private addresses to buy cigarettes. It puts them into risky situations with people who might also be selling alcohol, drugs and stolen goods.
Crime: the illegal tobacco trade has strong links with organised crime and criminal gangs, so many of the people smuggling, distributing and selling it are involved in drug dealing, money laundering, people trafficking and even terrorism. Even small time local sellers are at the end of a long criminal chain – selling illegal tobacco is a crime.
more information about Trading Standards can be found online: https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/tradingstandards
Watch Yoyo, the sniffer dog, in action here: https://youtu.be/upHKTDlYD8A