Illegal cigarettes worth £45k found hidden in fridge freezer during raids

Tens of thousands of pounds worth of illegal cigarettes and rolling tobacco have been seized.

By David Sedgwick
Thursday, 24th February 2022, 4:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 1st March 2022, 11:37 am
The illegal cigarettes found hidden in a fridge during the raids.
The illegal cigarettes found hidden in a fridge during the raids.

Based on intelligence received, six stores in North Tyneside were visited in a joint operation by North Tyneside Council’s Trading Standards team and Northumbria Police.

It formed part of Operation CeCe, a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC to tackle the sale of illegal tobacco.

In total, 3,608 cigarette packets and 380 50g rolling tobacco pouches were seized from four premises in the Howdon and Wallsend areas.

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Cooper with some of the recovered cigarettes.

The seized items, worth more than £45,000, were a mixture of either counterfeit products or had no duty paid.

YoYo, a Cocker Spaniel, and Cooper, a Red Labrador, were used in the initiative as they are specially trained to detect tobacco, finding the cigarettes hidden in a fridge freezer.

Cllr Carole Burdis, cabinet member for Community Safety and Public Protection, said: “We’re committed to taking action against the sale of illegal tobacco – it disadvantages genuine businesses and creates a cheap source of tobacco that can support smoking, particularly in the young.

“It’s great news that, thorough our close partnership with Northumbria Police, that we’ve managed to take these illegal goods off the streets.”

A Northumbria Police spokesperson added: “People might think that it’s okay to buy them and take that risk, but what they don’t see is that the money used from the sale of these items is often used to fund organised crime and further illicit activity.

“As a force, we are committed to tackling serious and organised crime, as part of Operation Sentinel, and will continue to pursue those involved in illegal activities, as well as protecting the public from the potential harmful effects of this type of criminality.”

The Trading Standards service, which is delivered for the council by Capita, is now conducting an investigation following the seizures.

If you know where illegal tobacco is being sold, contact the Illegal Tobacco Hotline on 0300 999 0000 or report it online at https://keep-it-out.co.uk/anonymous-reporting/