Police claim success over ‘organised crime’
A joint operation where more than 17,000 illegal cigarettes were seized from shops in Spalding is a blow against “organised crime”, claims The Government.
Three unidentified shops in Spalding were raided by Lincolnshire Trading Standards and Alcohol Licensing Team police officers on Wednesday.
The raids were carried out after tip-offs from the public and “test purchases” which led to search warrants being issued.
An eye-witness, who asked not to be named, said: “I saw a white transit van and gathered around it were what I took to be a man from one of the shops, with two police officers and trading standards people.
“They were pointing at the van and the man was shaking his head which looked to me like he was refusing to open the back of it.
The sale of non-duty paid or smuggled goods is organised crime and store operators who are prepared to sell these goods, serve to promote this criminality.Sgt Kimble Enderby of Lincolnshire Police’s Licensing Department
“Later on, three more vans pulled up and a brown and white springer spaniel was brought out of one of them.
“The police officers then took a crowbar and forced the van open before they led the dog inside to sniff stuff.
“The man was then given a bit of a finger wagging and at the time all this was going on, the shop was shut.”
The cigarettes have been taken away to be analysed and investigations continue to see if any charges should be brought.
Tara Carter, senior trading standards officer at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “Following a number of test purchases and information from the public about the shops storing and selling counterfeit cigarettes, we acted quickly with our enforcement colleagues from Lincolnshire Police.
“Together, we managed to seize a large quantity of non-duty paid and incorrectly labelled cigarettes, with help from tobacco detection dogs Beck and Bertie from Wagtail UK, North Wales.”
Sgt Kimble Enderby of Lincolnshire Police’s Licensing Department, added: “The sale of non-duty paid or smuggled goods is organised crime and store operators who are prepared to sell these goods, serve to promote this criminality.
“Working together, we can make sure that retailers don’t get away with selling these illegal and potentially dangerous items.
Tobacco smuggling is costing the UK more than £2 billion a year, according to a Government report published in March.
The report, Tackling Illicit Tobacco: From Leaf to Light, outlined the steps being taken by the Government, HMRC (Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise) and UK Border Force officers.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said: “The international trade in counterfeit goods is linked to serious and organised crime, undercutting honest traders and damaging our economy.
“Customers are also left out of pocket with inferior and potentially dangerous goods as counterfeiters look to capitalise and cash in where there is demand for a product.
“We are determined to crack down on this criminality and the Home Office has Border Force officers working 24 hours a day at ports, airports and mail sorting centres to identify and seize counterfeit goods and items.”