May 25, 2023
A large amount of illegal cigarettes, tobacco and disposable vapes with a retail value of almost £30,000 was seized across Walsall last week as part of a crackdown on the illicit tobacco trade.
Walsall Trading Standards, in partnership with West Midlands Police and a specialist search dog team, swooped on local shops and one associated vehicle during last week’s raids. The haul took place under Operation CeCe, which is a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC to tackle illegal tobacco.
The intelligence-led raids also found two males working without the right to work in the UK. They were referred to HM Immigration for further investigation.
The seizures included 20,640 illegal cigarettes, 2.95 kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco and 1,278 illegal disposable vapes. Many of the disposable vapes seized contained 9000 puffs when the legal limit is approximately 600.
Three highly trained sniffer dogs, Cooper, Griff and Bran, assisted the team and Bran identified a highly-sophisticated hydraulic lift which rose from the floor when operated by a remote control. Coffee grains had been sprinkled over the concealment to try and deter the dogs.
“Walsall retailers dealing in illegal tobacco will not be tolerated. They are encouraging crime amongst the community and putting vulnerable people at risk. This crackdown makes it clear that we will do everything within our power to keep our people safe and make criminal businesses face the law,” said Cllr Garry Perry, deputy leader and portfolio holder for resilient communities.
Lord Michael Bichard, chair of National Trading Standards, added: “The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law. Having removed 21 million illegal cigarettes, 5,800kg of hand rolling tobacco and almost 175kg of shisha products from sale, the National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC continues to successfully disrupt this illicit trade.”