Officers seize more than 70,000 illegal cigarettes hidden in shops across Leeds
Officers have seized more than 70,000 illegal cigarettes that were hidden in shops across Leeds.
A joint operation between the West Yorkshire Trading Standards, the police and Leeds City Council targeted hot spot areas for illegal tobacco dealing.
They also visited premises identified from intelligence and complaints from members of the public.
Nine businesses were visited across Leeds in which illegal practices were taking place.
Illicit tobacco was hidden in concealments built in to the wall, hidden in a van and behind the counter.
The operation resulted in a seizure of more than 70,000 cigarettes and 8kg of hand rolling tobacco.
If genuine, the value of the cigarettes seized would be over £40,000 with a loss of duty to the tax payer of more than £25,000.
A large quantity of cash was also seized, believed to be the proceeds of crime from the sales of illicit tobacco.
Fresh food which was in breach of the Food Safety Act 1990 was recovered as well as unsafe face creams and mobile charging cables.
Three premises were also found to be abstracting electricity.
Linda Davis, West Yorkshire Trading Standards Manager said, “We are committed to the fight against cheap and illicit tobacco. By taking tough action and working with partners, this operation has taken a significant amount of illicit tobacco off the streets.
"Illicit cigarettes and tobacco are usually sold at a fraction of the price in a range of locations such as pubs, clubs, shops, private houses and even by street hawkers.
"Illicit tobacco undermines the age and price restrictions placed on tobacco and also encourages people to continue smoking.
"It is also linked to organised crime and contributes to an underground economy worth billions of pounds.
"Victims of human trafficking are often being forced to sell these illegal products in order to pay off debts or fearing harm to themselves or their families.
"I would like to thank all the partners and members of the public for reporting illegal sales and encourage everyone to continue doing so to reduce the harm caused by tobacco in our communities.”
Further action is to be taken in the form of legal proceedings, alcohol licence reviews and the potential for evictions of traders by landlords of the businesses.
The operation was jointly run with revenue protection officers from British Gas and Wagtail UK and other Trading Standards officers from Sheffield, North Lincs, North East Lincs, Barnsley and Doncaster.
The Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health Programme, has taken nearly 8 million illicit cigarettes and more than two and half tonnes of illicit hand rolling tobacco off the streets of West Yorkshire.