Published: 11:03, 04 April 2018
| Updated: 16:58, 04 April 2018
Illicit tobacco hidden behind a cellar wall, which could be opened by a secret button under a false plug unit, has been seized from a shop in Maidstone.
Specialist sniffer dogs helped Kent County Council's Trading Standards team, supported by Kent Police, to confiscate 22,220 cigarettes, along with 405 packs of hand rolling pouches, from the convenience store in Upper Stone Street after a raid on Thursday.
The tobacco, estimated to be worth more than £18,000 was found stored in a number of areas, including in a concealed compartment behind a plasterboard wall in the cellar, which was accessed with a button using electro magnets.
Tobacco was also found concealed under the shop counter and in a chilled drinks cabinet.
Clive Phillips, operations manager for KCC Trading Standards, said: "We will continue to work with our enforcement partners in clamping down on the sale of illicit tobacco.
"This is a fantastic result for Maidstone as the sale of illicit tobacco undermines local legitimate businesses and inevitably funds organised crime."
Sergeant Nick Hatcher said: "This was a joint intervention into an illegal trade, which we know is often associated with the activities of organised criminal groups.
"We work very closely with our partners, including KCC Trading Standards, in deterring and stamping out the illegal sale of tobacco and businesses which continue to flout the law should also a expect a visit in the near future."
Further seizures also took place in Sittingbourne, where Trading Standards officers, again supported by sniffer dogs, seized 3,380 illicit cigarettes, 510 packs of foreign labelled rolling papers and suspicious incorrectly labelled molasses-based products.
A raid also took place in Tunbridge Wells where officers seized 1,840 cigarettes and 25 packs of hand rolling tobacco - just a week after a similar one in Thanet, when warrants were simultaneously executed at three commercial premises, two residential addresses and two vehicles.
Officers, with the support of specialist sniffer dogs, seized 131,480 cigarettes and 352 packs of hand-rolling tobacco, with a total value of £66,000.
They also seized £22,000 cash, which is believed to be the proceeds of crime.