A large amount of illegal tobacco has been seized by North Tyneside Council’s Trading Standards team from a shop in Wallsend.
More than 14,000 cigarettes and nearly 5kg of rolling tobacco worth an estimated £10,000 were recovered – the items were a mixture of either counterfeit products or had no duty paid.
Based on intelligence received, the operation took place on Tuesday, April 6. It was carried out by North Tyneside Council’s Trading Standards team and Northumbria Police under Operation CeCe, which is a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC to tackle illegal tobacco.
It was co-ordinated by Newcastle City Council’s Trading Standards team as part of its own work to tackle the sale and supply of illicit tobacco products.
Yoyo, a Working Cocker Spaniel that can detect counterfeit or illegal tobacco, was used in the operation because the items are often in hidden concealments such as in ceiling areas, behind panels or under floorboards.
However, on this occasion they were visible in a storeroom, a bag behind the shop counter and a cigarette cabinet.
Phil Scott, North Tyneside Council Head of Environment, Housing and Leisure, said: “This was one of our biggest seizures of illegal tobacco.
“We’re delighted that, through working with our partners, we have removed these illegal products from sale.
“Not only does the sale of illegal tobacco disadvantage genuine businesses, it creates a cheap source of tobacco that can support smoking among young people.”
Chief Inspector Ron Charlton, of Northumbria Police, said: “This joint-operation was the result of weeks of preparation and planning, and we are pleased to have helped take these illegal goods off the streets.
“Some people may think the selling of counterfeit goods is a victimless crime, but quite often these goods can be a product of organised crime.
“Groups can supply them into the region with the intention of making money, which enables them to then continue to fund illicit activities.
“We are committed to pursuing criminals and protecting our communities as part of Operation Sentinel, which is our collaborative approach to tackling serious and organised crime, and we will continue to work with all our partners to prevent and disrupt these groups.”
The Trading Standards service, which is delivered for the council by Capita, is now conducting an investigation following the seizure from the Wallsend store.