Brent and Harrow Trading Standards have seized more then 8500 cigarettes, 250 sachets of oral tobacco and pouches of hand rolling tobacco during an operation using specially trained sniffer dogs to search for illegal tobacco. Had these products been sold the UK government would have lost around £3,000 in tax revenue alone.
Illicit products were discovered during the raids that were coordinated by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) and supported by the Department of Health.
The intelligence-led Operation Henry 2 is tackling illicit tobacco supplies in nine regions of England, over six months, using specialist tobacco detection dogs from Wagtail UK – photos attached.
Detection dogs discovered concealed stashes of tobacco at2 premises in Brent and 1 in Harrow, with illegal products carefully hidden in various areas including bathroom cabinets, medicine storage units and inside shop furniture
Cllr James Denselow, Brent’s Cabinet Member responsible for trading standards said:
“People who deal in illegal tobacco are more likely to encourage others, especially children and young adults, to smoke.”
“All tobacco is harmful but the illegal tobacco market and in particular the availability of cheap cigarettes make it harder for smokers to quit and remain smoke free.”
“Our trading standards officers are working hard to keep these illegal products off the streets and are cracking down on the businesses and individuals that flout the law.”
Simon Legg from Brent and Harrow Trading Standards explained how the raids works
“Specially trained detection dogs can find tobacco and cigarettes in the most unlikely places where officers would not consider looking such as in wall cavities, freezers, toilet cisterns and hidden in amongst other stock which at first glance, may appear to be legitimate. In addition to having their stock confiscated offenders will now be subject to full investigation and could face unlimited fines and up to ten years in prison if they are prosecuted.”
The seizure included foreign labelled cigarettes, cigarettes marked for duty free sale only and oral tobacco which cannot be legally sold in the UK. Officers also discovered Vodka bottles which seemed to be counterfeit products and might contain dangerous chemicals.
Leon Livermore, CTSI chief executive, said
“The illegal tobacco trade costs taxpayers about £2 billion per year in lost revenue and is known to fund organised crime networks and criminal gang activity.”
“Meanwhile, about 80,000 people die from smoking related diseases each year, in England alone, costing the overstretched NHS an estimated £2 billion.”
“Together we are winning the battle and figures show that the market share of illicit cigarettes has dropped from 21 per cent to 9 per cent in the last decade.”
“Intelligence-led investigations like Operation Henry 2 keep illegal cigarettes and tobacco off the market and away from children and young people.”
Richard Las, deputy director of fraud and investigation service at HMRC, said:
“HMRC works closely with other enforcement agencies to crack down on illicit tobacco in the UK.”
“Seizing illicit product is only one of the tools used; the focus is on using a range of interventions, from penalties to prosecutions, to encourage compliance and maximise deterrent.”
“Partnership working with trading standards is vital in order to share intelligence and collaborate on joint exercises such as Operation Henry to target those areas with the highest levels of illicit tobacco activity.”
Launched last year and supported by the Department of Health, Operation Henry was the first large scale coordinated trading standards investigation of its kind to tackle the supply of illegal tobacco.
It resulted in the seizure of more than 2.5 million cigarettes worth £614,488 with concealed tobacco products found in walls, under floorboards and inside furniture.
Anyone with information about illegal tobacco can call HMRC customs hotline anonymously on 0800 595 000.