Published: 15:28, 20 January 2022
| Updated: 15:29, 20 January 2022
Police have seized £20,000 worth of illegal goods after raiding a number of businesses in a Kent town.
A joint operation between Kent Police and Kent County Council yesterday uncovered counterfeit tobacco and cigarettes were hidden in the ceiling of Maidstone Express in Knightrider Street, Maidstone.
Four other retailers in the town were inspected, with seizures made at address in the High Street, King Street and Calder Road.
Illegal tobacco, beleived to be for sale without payment of UK duties, counterfeit whisky and banned e-cigarettes and vaping products with an estimated cost of around £20,000 were recovered.
Police and KCC's Trading Standards team were pictured with two large bags of contraband outside the Knightrider Street store yesterday.
Maidstone Express owner Rustem Fetea,said:" I wasn't aware myself that the stuff was there.
"I've been on holiday in the U.K. and when I got back I saw it being raided."
The unscheduled visit was part of Neighbourhood Policing Week.
PC Jared Dungate, of Maidstone Community Safety Unit, said: "The supply and sale of illicit cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol is often connected to organised crime groups and has a detrimental effect on law-abiding retailers who pay the relevant duties and taxes.
"We will continue to pay regular visits to premises with our partners who will apply for closure orders where businesses persistently fail to comply with the law.’
While KCC's principal Trading Standards officer Oliver Jewell added: "The e-cigarette devices seized were up to six times over the legal limit.
"E-cigarettes that don’t meet UK requirements will have not have undergone any of the necessary checks and as a result carry a risk of containing potentially harmful banned ingredients.
"As well as posing a health risk, illegal tobacco brings crime into our communities and should not be tolerated.
"It undermines local businesses who follow the rules, funds organised crime and makes smoking more affordable for young people and those trying to quit the habit.
"For all these reasons, we will continue to work alongside our enforcement partners to take action against the sale of illegal tobacco in Kent."
Residents who become aware of shops selling illegal tobacco can also report them anonymously through 0300 999 6 999 or by visiting www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk.