Sniffer dogs and tip-offs help take £15,000 worth of illegal tobacco off South Tyneside streets

Specialist sniffer dogs and information from members of the public has helped take illicit tobacco products worth over £15,000 off South Tyneside’s streets, according to chiefs.

Coordinated raids on shops across the borough resulted in almost 16,000 illegal cigarettes and 11kg of hand rolling tobacco being seized, South Tyneside Council has revealed.

Several premises and a vehicle were targeted by South Tyneside Trading Standards, with support from Northumbria Police and using specialist sniffer dogs.

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Cllr Jim Foreman, Lead Member for Housing and Community Safety, said: “It is important to remember that the sale of illegal tobacco is not a victimless crime. Dealers often target children and young people, putting them at risk of developing a harmful addiction.

A Northumbria Police specialist sniffer dog

“Members of the public can help be our eyes and ears, as in this case, when they provided us with vital intelligence to help us with these seizures, and we thank them for their support.

“Illicit tobacco’ includes counterfeit tobacco, non-UK duty paid tobacco and ‘cheap white’ cigarettes, which have little or no legitimate market and so are effectively manufactured specifically for smuggling.

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Investigations into the businesses concerned are ongoing.

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Inspector Paul Whittle, of Northumbria Police, said: “This is a fantastic result and we are pleased to have helped take these illegal goods off the streets. Some people may think the selling of counterfeit goods is a victimless crime, but quite often it can be a product of organised crime.

“Groups can supply them into the region with the intention of making money, which enables them to continue to fund illicit activities.

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“This joint operation with South Tyneside Trading Standards reinforces our commitment to tackling this type of crime across Northumbria.”

The activity took place under the name Operation CeCe, which is a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC to tackle illegal tobacco.

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Wendy Martin, Director, National Trading Standards, said: “The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law.

“Having removed 13 million illegal cigarettes, 4,300kg of hand rolling tobacco and almost 110kg of shisha products from sale in the first year of the operation, the National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC continues to successfully disrupt this illicit trade.”