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Tens of thousands of illegal cigarettes found in Great Yarmouth shop raids

PUBLISHED: 17:33 19 January 2018 | UPDATED: 16:27 23 January 2018

A sniffer dog detects the secret compartment during a raid on a shop.
Picture: Norfolk County Council

A sniffer dog detects the secret compartment during a raid on a shop. Picture: Norfolk County Council

Archant

More than 27,000 illegal cigarettes have been seized in raids on two Great Yarmouth shops, with a sniffer dog finding some of the stash hidden in a secret compartment behind a water heater.

The cigarettes and nearly 6kg of illegal rolling tobacco were found in an operation carried out by Norfolk County Council Trading Standards on Thursday.

In one shop a sniffer discovered a hatch leading to a secret compartment behind a water heater, with other illegal items hidden behind a cupboard.

The raids were part of wider a operation in the town that saw officers also visit two homes and inspect a number of vehicles.

As well as Trading Standards officers, the operation involved tobacco detection dogs Scamp, Yoyo and Phoebe, Great Yarmouth police, Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s environmental health department and Stuart Phillips of B.W.Y Canine Ltd.

The illegal cigarettes and tobacco found with the help of sniffer dogs.
Picture: Norfolk County CouncilThe illegal cigarettes and tobacco found with the help of sniffer dogs. Picture: Norfolk County Council

All the businesses were visited as a result of intelligence received from the public, businesses and Norfolk police.

Brian Chatten, community safety and fair trading manager at the Trading Standards team, said: “This is the first time we’ve found illegal tobacco behind a water heater.

“It must have taken some time and effort to construct this secret compartment but it was all in a day’s work for the sniffer dogs who made quick work of revealing the hidden stash.

“The inspections carried out today show that despite the publicity and action to deter the sale of illegal tobacco a small number of retailers are making smoking more accessible to children by selling illegal tobacco at pocket money prices.

The heater lifted up to reveal a secret compartment.
Picture: Norfolk County CouncilThe heater lifted up to reveal a secret compartment. Picture: Norfolk County Council

“Retailers who sell illegal tobacco put their profit ahead of damaging the health Norfolk’s young people.

“These retailers are supporting the organised crime gangs who are behind this criminal activity, some of whom operate modern day slavery.

“We hope the raids will further raise awareness of our campaign to stub out the sales of illegal tobacco in our county. We would encourage local residents to tell us any information or concerns they may have.”

Sophie Leney, Norfolk County Council’s Head of Trading Standards said: “Today’s inspections continue our fantastic track record of protecting the most vulnerable residents in our communities by cracking down on criminals who prey on them. We have been involved in the seizure of nearly 160,000 illegal cigarettes and 65kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco so far this service year, helped for by the financial support of Public Health.

“Previous investigations have resulted in formal enforcement action; including prosecution, where two traders have received suspended prison sentences. Reviews of premises’ alcohol licences have resulted in sales of alcohol being banned from stores where illegal tobacco has been found.

“I would like to thank businesses and the public who have provided us with information about illegal tobacco being sold in their communities. This intelligence has been invaluable in planning today’s inspections and seizures and our work to disrupt the supply of illegal tobacco in Norfolk this year.”

You can provide information in the following ways:

By calling the Citizens Advice Consumer helpline (anonymously if you wish) on 03454 04 05 06 or via their online form at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer

By calling 101 (use 999 in an emergency)

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