Illegal tobacco worth £300,000 seized in Croydon

The search dogs with their findings. Pic: Croydon Council

Approximately £300,000 of illegal tobacco was seized from a storage unit in north Croydon earlier this month.

The find occurred as part of Operation CeCe, a partnership between HM Revenue and Customs and National Trading Standards to reduce illegal tobacco trade in the UK.

Included in the seizure were over 216,000 illegal cigarettes and more than 350 kilograms of hand rolling tobacco.

The illegal goods were found on December 1 through a joint operation with BWY Canine Ltd. Search dogs from the business were used to identify the correct lockups in the facility.

Stuart Phillips, the dog handler from BWY Canine Ltd. involved in the seizure, told Eastlondonlines: “To date, it’s the largest illegal tobacco seizure for Operation CeCe in London. It was a massive find. It was stored in a number of lockups within a storage facility and wouldn’t have been found had it not been for the two dogs that were working on the operation.”

The seizure occurred during a routine security inspection, with Phillips describing it as a “lucky find”.

Phillips said: “The quantity of hand rolling tobacco that was in the unit was nearly 400 kilograms, which is just a staggering amount. I think that’s the largest we’ve found nationally this year. It was a massive quantity.”

“Nearly £300,000 worth of illegal tobacco will now not hit the streets, which is a good thing obviously.”

It is suspected that the tobacco found was smuggled into the UK, with counterfeit versions of many popular cigarette brands included in the goods.

Counterfeit cigarette brands often have no health warnings, neglecting the standardised packaging required by law. Such products are often sold at a reduced price and may end up in the hands of children.

On the sale of illicit tobacco, Simon York, director of the Fraud Investigation Service for HM Revenue and Customs, said: “This is a trade that costs the UK taxpayer around £2.3 billion a year, undermining our vital public services and bankrolling a host of other crimes that harm communities, including guns, drugs and human trafficking.”

“Those involved readily undercut legitimate businesses and don’t care who they sell to, including children.”

“HMRC and Trading Standards are determined to stamp out the illicit tobacco trade, as these results clearly show.”

Councillor Manju Shahul-Hameed, cabinet member for communities, safety and business recovery, said: “I would like to say a big thank you to all those involved in this operation. The work you have undertaken has been fantastic and will benefit many of our residents.”

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