Almost 20,000 illegal cigarettes have been seized during a recent investigation by Bedford Borough Council Trading Standards. On 27 September Licensing Officers from Bedfordshire Police and the Council’s Licensing Compliance team, supported by specially trained tobacco detection dogs, raided two shops where illicit tobacco was found concealed in sophisticated hidden compartments.
The retailers are now under investigation and may be subject to further enforcement action including prosecution, the removal of premises licenses, and fines by HMRC of up to £10,000.
The haul is the latest testament to Bedford Trading Standards’ ongoing work to stub out illegal cigarettes in the borough as part of Operation CeCe, an initiative led by National Trading Standards (NTS) and HMRC to combat the illicit tobacco trade. Tens of thousands of illegal cigarettes with a street value of around £150,000 were seized by the Bedford team between June and September this year.
Lord Michael Bichard, Chair of NTS, 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 HM Revenue & Customs, continues to successfully disrupt this illicit trade.”
Councillor Phillippa Martin-Moran-Bryant, Bedford Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Community Safety, Regulatory Services and Housing, said, “I commend the efforts of our Trading Standards Officers and the collaborative work with law enforcement agencies. Our community deserves to be free from the negative impacts of illegal activities, and this operation signifies our dedication to achieving that. We will continue to work tirelessly to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents.”