Shopkeepers selling illicit cigarettes and tobacco are finding increasingly elaborate means of concealing their stashes of illegal goods, according to Derby City Council Trading Standards.
During a series of inspections on 7 November the Derby Trading Standards team, supported by Derbyshire Police and a specially trained tobacco detection dog, found that the owners of one shop had gone to extraordinary lengths to hide illegal products, installing a kitchen counter on hydraulic legs that would raise and lower at the push of a button.
Beneath it officers found more than £10,000 worth of illicit cigarettes, tobacco and vapes.
An elaborate hydraulic hide was found in a Derby shop
The raids took place as part of Operation CeCe, a joint initiative between HMRC and National Trading Standards (NTS) to disrupt the illicit tobacco trade.
Over the past year, Derby Trading Standards has seized 791,000 cigarettes and almost 140kg of hand rolling tobacco, as well as 5,082 illegal vapes. Altogether the illegal products have an estimated value of almost £620,000.
Councillor Shiraz Khan, Derby City Council Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regulatory Services, said: “I’m incredibly proud of the work our Trading Standards team are doing to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco products.
“These products undermine the health of adults and children around the city, but we will continue to work hard tackling this issue.
“It is reassuring to know that no matter how elaborate the hiding places may become, our officers, and their partners, are able to track down and seize these illicit products before they reach citizens.”
Lord Michael Bichard, Chair of National Trading Standards, commented: “The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law. Having removed 27 million illegal cigarettes, 7,500kg 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.”