Officers from Lincolnshire Trading Standards have discovered a stash of illicit tobacco products hidden on an elaborate remote-controlled shelf concealed above a light in a shop in Boston, Lincolnshire.
Lincolnshire Police’s Licensing Team accompanied Trading Standards Officers on a visit to a retail premises in the town following suspicions about the sale of illicit cigarettes and alcohol.
During the visit a hide was found containing more than 5,000 illegal cigarettes.
In shocking footage, an officer shows how a remote control is used to lower a ceiling light above a stairway to reveal shelves packed with counterfeit cigarettes.
The goods were seized, and the matter is now under investigation.
Andy Wright, Principal Trading Standards Officer at Lincolnshire Trading Standards, said: “I’ve now been working to combat illegal cigarette sales in Lincolnshire for 12 years. Hides, or concealments, are becoming more and more elaborate as retailers attempt to hide illegal cigarettes from trading standards and the police.
“Suspending the weight of the metal box in the ceiling must have been quite an undertaking. The shop concerned had only just opened, and raised our suspicions. Because it was so tiny, it would be inadequate as a viable retail business and could only be profitable as a source of illegal goods. Clearly they had invested some time and money in a venture they thought would prove profitable for a long time.
“There is a sense of professional achievement in finding a particularly clever concealment. As well as hides in light fittings, I’ve seen many hidden within floors and behind walls, including pictures which are opened by magnetic locks revealing a cavity behind.”
Lincolnshire Trading Standards had previously found a hide in Spalding where criminals had lined a large storeroom entirely with false walls, creating a room within a room. Between the false walls and the original walls there was a 4-inch gap packed with thousands of illegal cigarettes.
Legal cigarettes in the UK are required to self-extinguish if they are left unattended, in order to lower the risk of accidental house fires. Counterfeit and non-UK cigarettes – like the ones found in the ceiling hide in Boston – do not have this safety feature.
Sgt Ian Cotton from the Lincolnshire Police Licensing Team said: “This shows how valuable partnership working is. These people go to great lengths to cover up what is a lucrative illicit business. Law-abiding shop owners are at a significant disadvantage because of this criminality and we will continue to work with our partners to stop it.”