Trading Standards seized illegal tobacco estimated to be worth more than £200,000 in raids in Devon and Somerset on Friday.
The raids were conducted by officers from the Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service and supported by Avon & Somerset Police, Devon and Cornwall Police, and HM Revenue and Customs.
The seizure is one of the largest of its kind by the service.
Using specialist detection dogs officers executed five warrants. They raided two stores, a residential address and a storage container in Taunton, two business addresses in each of Exeter and Yeovil and a business and residential premises in Tiverton. Two commercial vehicles were also searched. A coordinated raid took place on a linked business premises in Northampton by Northamptonshire Trading Standards.
The recent operations means that the service, which is commissioned by Devon and Somerset county councils, Plymouth City Council and Torbay Council, has now seized illicit tobacco worth more than £310,000 across the service area during 2021 and 2022.
Fakir Mohamed Osman, Head of the Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service said: “Our Trading Standards team is playing its part in tackling this trade which has a links to organised crime. The trade in Illicit cigarettes takes business away from legitimate retailers and undermines public health efforts to reduce smoking rates.
“Using the dogs helps searches to be completed more quickly so more premises can be checked. We will continue to act on intelligence to target unscrupulous sellers making money from this illegal activity.”
Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, Somerset County Council Lead Executive Member for Communities, said: “The seizure demonstrates the excellent work of the Trading Standards team. Working alongside the police, HMRC, and other agencies, we will continue to fight to protect residents and businesses from this damaging trade which is linked to serious and organised crime.”
Investigations into those premises found selling the items are ongoing.
Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can report anonymously online to Trading Standards at www.swillegaltobacco.info/
David Beasley, Devon County Council, firstname.lastname@example.org