A factory producing fake branded tobacco in Croydon which was raided and closed in August is “the biggest seizure of its kind” in the borough, according to Croydon Council.
Six Croydon trading standards officers (TSO), who deal with consumer protection law, seized 4,600 50g packets of fake Golden Virginia Hand Rolling Tobacco that was packed and ready for delivery, with an approximate value of £85,000.
The factory had produced half a million pounds worth of fake tobacco before being shut down. During July, the criminal gang produced 13,000 packets with a street value of £250,000 and council trading standards estimate there were enough materials to make a further quarter million pounds worth of fakes.
The raid, led by TSO and brand enforcement officer from Imperial Tobacco, found equipment and ingredients to be used for making large quantities of fake tobacco products, along with guidelines of how to make it.
Complaints had been made in early August, after fakes were reported to have been sold from a small independent supermarket in Kent.
Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice at Croydon Council said: “These counterfeit packs of tobacco were, on the face of it, very high quality. Anyone who bought them would not necessarily have realised anything was amiss until they smoked the tobacco, when the poor quality would have immediately become obvious.”
A spokesperson for Imperial Tobacco, who produce Golden Virginia, said: “Illicit tobacco is a significant problem in the UK as a result of the excessive rates of duty on tobacco, which are amongst the highest in Europe.”
“This provides criminals with a clear profit incentive to target UK smokers with counterfeit and other non-duty paid tobacco products. Each day the Government misses out on around £8m of lost duty to the illicit trade.”
They added: “Our brands are manufactured to the highest standards and comply with all regulatory requirements. Counterfeit products do not comply with these requirements and therefore deprive smokers of the quality and taste they associate with their favourite brands. Retailers and consumers should only buy tobacco products from legitimate sources.”
Investigations by the council are still ongoing.
Anyone who has purchased 50g packs of Golden Virginia Hand Rolling Tobacco that they suspect may be counterfeit can report it to Citizens Advice on 03454 040506 or directly to Imperial Tobacco via email@example.com