Illegal tobacco trade in Leeds and Wakefield and links to organised crime

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CRIMESTOPPERS chiefs are urging residents in Leeds and Wakefield to report retailers selling illegal cheap cigarettes amid fears the trade in illicit tobacco helps fund organised crime.

The plea follows raids last month when more than 20 venues in Leeds and Wakefield were caught selling illicit tobacco products in an undercover sting.

The products were found in a test purchasing operation by tobacco giant Japan Tobacco International (JTI).

Roger Critchell, Crimestoppers director of operations, said: “As a crime-fighting charity, Crimestoppers has a responsibility to tackle all types of crime, and working alongside JTI UK, we hope to be able to clean the streets of illicit tobacco.

“The link this trade has to serious and organised crime is very real, and with the help of information from the public on those supplying and selling these fake products, our aim is to ensure your community is a safe place to live.”

Mark Yexley media relations manager for JTI, said: “Law enforcement agencies across the world have identified links between tobacco smuggling and globalised crime. The man or woman in the street who sells illegal cigarettes could be the front for a criminal supply chain that can span the globe.”

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs spokeswoman Kathryn Corcoran, said: “We estimate that tobacco fraud costs the Government around £2bn a year – money that could be spent on services that we all use, such as healthcare. So a cheap smoke isn’t victimless – it can cost us all dear. Smuggling isn’t just a few cheap cigarettes on the quiet. That’s why we are increasing our efforts to tackle smuggling, and the public and retailers play a vital role in this fight.” Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.