A Lewisham retailer has been found with more than £100,000 worth of illegal tobacco, in a find believed to be the biggest seizure by trading standards officers in the country.
Trading standards, along with a sniffer-dog named Jack, conducted a search of the Lee High Road shop last weekend, where 600kg of illegal Chinese hand rolling tobacco was discovered. The shop owner, who denied the possession of any tobacco, is now under investigation. Both his name and the name of the shop is yet to be revealed.
In separate cases last week, officers also seized 10,000 Chinese cigarettes and counterfeit hand rolling tobacco in Deptford, and 15,000 Russian cigarettes in Lee Green. According the Lewisham Council, it is estimated that over 114 million illegal cigarettes with a street value of over £22million are sold annually in south-east London.
Local councillor Susan Wise said: “Organised criminal gangs play a key role in the supply of illicit tobacco, especially counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes.”
“This illegal trade does damage well beyond adverse health impacts and loss of government revenue as it can support other criminal activity such as the supply of controlled drugs, stolen goods and illegal alcohol.”
In a statement on the Lewisham Council website, Trading Standards have launched a campaign to raise will raise awareness of the health and fire risks associated with the illegal cigarette trade. It is estimated that around 11% of all cigarettes and 49% of all hand rolling tobacco consumed in the UK are illicit.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0845 404 0506.