SHOPKEEPERS face prosecution after over 38,000 suspected counterfeit and non-duty paid cigarettes were seized in Warwickshire.
Cigarettes and rolling tobacco were discovered stashed in ‘hidey-holes’ – including walls, ceilings, toilets and fridges – by sniffer dogs during raids carried out by Warwickshire Trading Standards, accompanied by Warwickshire Police and immigration officers.
Acting on tip-offs, they swooped on ten mini-marts, corner shops and newsagents in Leamington, Rugby, Nuneaton and Atherstone. At the unnamed Leamington store they seized nearly 4,000 cigarettes and 2.3 kg of hand rolling tobacco.
PC Justin Rai of Warwickshire Police said: “This was a good result as counterfeit tobacco is often smuggled and distributed by organised crime groups.
“This is an important seizure of a significant scale for the local areas. I thank the local community for their vital intelligence and ongoing support.”
Coun John Horner, Warwickshire County Council’s community safety spokesman, promised the fight would go on.
He said: “Warwickshire Trading Standards will continue to carry out these enforcement exercises to support legitimate retailers and taxpayers and help protect the health of children and young people who are often tempted by cheap illegal tobacco.”
Anyone found guilty of supplying counterfeit tobacco could face up to ten years in jail and unlimited fines. They would also lose their alcohol licence and National Lottery terminal.
And Coun Horner also promised any shopkeeper prosecuted would be named and publicly shamed.
Residents are being urged to report suspicions about illegal cigarette and tobacco trading in confidence to the trading standards fakes hotline on 0845 894 1008, or to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.