Almost 4,000 packs of illicit cigarettes have been discovered following a series of investigations in Northampton, Kettering, Corby and Wellingborough.
During October, Northamptonshire County Council’s trading standards team, supported by Northamptonshire Police, HM Revenue & Customs and the UK Border Authority, targeted shops where there was reliable intelligence that illicit tobacco was being sold.
During the searches, which were executed at 11 premises, officers found around 3,800 packs of illicit cigarettes and around 240 packs of illicit hand rolling tobacco.
Officers were accompanied by a dog handler and a specially-trained sniffer dog to identify where tobacco was being hidden as illicit tobacco is often stored in concealed locations, such as under floorboards.
The county council’s cabinet member for public protection, Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage (Con, East Hunsbury & Shelfleys) said: “Illicit tobacco is either smuggled or counterfeit, or both, so it harms the interests of honest businesses, not to mention all of us taxpayers, as it is sold far cheaper than legitimate tobacco.
“Illicit tobacco may also not comply with requirements for reduced ignition propensity which attempts to reduce the number of house fires caused by cigarettes.”
The smuggling of tobacco costs the UK economy nearly £2 billion and is often linked to other organised criminal activity such as drugs and people trafficking and money laundering.
While investigations are ongoing details of the shops involved have not been disclosed.