Kent Trading Standards officers carried out a series of targeted raids and seized thousands of illicit tobacco products.
In partnership with HMRC, Thanet District Council, Folkestone and Hythe District Council and Kent Police, the raids took place at business premises in Thanet and Folkestone as part of the ongoing nationwide operation CeCe.
Supported by a team of specialized search dogs, officers visited 6 premises and located hidden illicit tobacco stores in five of them.
The illegal products included 30,540 cigarette sticks and 14 kg of rolling tobacco, 247 pots of shisha and 79 illegal vapes. The illegal products were found hidden behind sophisticated hides which were discovered using the detection dog.
Officers also discovered that an electricity meter had been bypassed and also identified possible immigration violations which are currently under investigation.
Clive Phillips, Operations Manager for Kent County Council Trading Standardssaid “We will work with our law enforcement partners using all available tactics to disrupt this illegal activity.”
“The sale of illicit tobacco undermines legitimate local businesses and puts money in the pockets of organized criminals. We will do everything in our power to protect the safety and rights of Kent residents and businesses. »
“The sale of illicit tobacco also makes smoking more affordable for young people and those trying to quit. Shops selling illegal tobacco can be reported anonymously on 0300 999 6 999 or by visiting www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk”
PC Tristan Foster, of Kent Police‘s Thanet Community Policing Team, said: “The sale of illicit tobacco is not a victimless crime – along with the health risks these products could pose to those who buy and use them, their sale can also fund organized crime. It is often used as a means of money laundering to fund a range of illicit activities from terrorism to modern slavery.
“We will continue to work with partner agencies to seize the goods and disrupt the crime supported by their sale.”
Cllr Stuart Peall, Cabinet Member for Enforcement, Regulatory Services, Waste and Building Control at Folkestone and Hythe District Counciladded “As evidenced by the results of this operation, it is crucial for us to work with our partners to ensure that the county premises meet the correct commercial standards.
“We ask if anyone knows of any incidents of illegal activity, then you can report it to Kent Police or Crimestoppers.”
Cllr George Kup, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Youth Engagement for Thanet District Council, said: “Together with our partner agencies, we are committed to the fight against cheap and illicit tobacco.
“These successful raids should send a strong message to businesses that are not cooperating with authorities when it comes to making our neighborhood a better place to live. Illegal tobacco is not a victimless crime – it harms legitimate businesses and society at large through non-payment of taxes, facilitates the supply of tobacco to minors, and supports organized criminal networks.
“I would like to thank all partners for their hard work on this operation as well as members of the public for reporting the illegal sales. I encourage everyone to continue to do so and help reduce the harm of tobacco in our communities.
Wendy Martin, Director, National Trading Standards, said: “The illegal tobacco trade harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law. After removing 13 million illegal cigarettes, 4,300 kg of hand-rolling tobacco and nearly 110 kg of shisha products from sale in the first year of operation, the National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HRMC continues to successfully disrupt this illicit trade.