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Home Gravesend News Article
Thousands of illegal cigarettes have been seized after a series of raids on shops to find smuggled and counterfeit tobacco.
Acting on intelligence, Trading Standards officers visited six convenience stores in Gravesham.
It resulted in the seizure of 55,000 illegal cigarettes and some packs of tobacco.
A small number of counterfeit DVDs were also seized at one premises and one man was arrested.
Two specially-trained sniffer dogs were used in the operation, which was led by Kent County Council Trading Standards officers and also involved Kent Police and HM Revenue and Customs officers.
Trading Standards manager Richard Strawson said: "We all recognise that smoking is one of the biggest causes of ill health.
"The trade in illicit tobacco makes a serious issue worse because the controls on safety standards, which apply to legitimate traders, are not carried out.
"It is for these reasons that we will continue to work to drive out this illegal trade.
"We used sniffer dogs because they can be vital in these kinds of cases as the tobacco is often hidden behind false walls or in secret drawers.
"In this case, the intelligence we received beforehand led us to believe – correctly – that illicit tobacco would be found on the premises."
The dog team comprised two specialist detection dogs and a dog handler, provided by Wagtail UK Ltd. The dogs were vital in helping to find secret stores of tobacco. In one case, large quantities of cigarettes were found hidden behind a false wall.
Wagtail director Louise Wilson said: "We have dogs trained to detect different items, such as cash and explosives, as well as tobacco and drugs, and we are pleased that our involvement was useful in this case."
"We relentlessly pursue any individuals or crime gangs believed to be involved in this type of criminal activity. It is not a victimless crime and undermines the efforts of legitimate traders..." - HMRC spokesman Bob Gaiger
HMRC spokesman Bob Gaiger said: "HMRC works with other law enforcement agencies to target anyone we suspect is selling or smuggling illicit tobacco.
"We relentlessly pursue any individuals or crime gangs believed to be involved in this type of criminal activity. It is not a victimless crime and undermines the efforts of legitimate traders."
Late last year, smuggled tobacco was discovered at two shops in Cliftonville in similar raids.
In a storage area of a second-hand shop one of the dogs sniffed out a quantity of rolling tobacco and the HMRC officers confirmed that duty had not been paid. A search of the rest of the shop revealed some more smuggled tobacco.
A similar operation was carried out at a bargain shop a short distance away, where the dog once again sniffed out rolling tobacco and cigarettes that had been smuggled into the UK.
In total, more than seven kilos of tobacco and more than 1,000 cigarettes were seized from the two premises and the total duty evaded is estimated at almost £2,200.
In the same day's operation, the Revenue and Customs Officers also seized two boxes of alcoholic drinks from a convenience store.
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