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Illicit import cigarettes sold at several shops in Maidstone

by Brad Harper

Black-market cigarettes imported from outside the UK are being sold at Maidstone newsagents.

Newsline in Week Street, Stone Street Groceries in Lower Stone Street and the International Bargain Food Store in Upper Stone Street all sold untaxed products over-the-counter during an undercover investigation.

Such packets purchased by KentOnline cost around half as much as in other newsagents and featured health warnings in languages including Czech and Polish.

Brad Harper with cigarettes bought at Newsline
Brad Harper with cigarettes bought at Newsline

“UK duty paid” was not written on the back as it is for all packets legally sold here.

At International Bargain Food Store, when asked if we could buy some cigarettes, the worker replied: “The cheap ones? The Polish ones?”

The packet was produced from beneath the counter, rather than a designated cigarette display cabinet.

A price of £6 was quoted for 20 Marlboro Gold, which cost £11.40 when sold legally.

Tax on cigarettes in the UK includes a duty tax of 16.5% of the retail price plus £4.57 on a packet of 20. The standard VAT rate of 20% is also added. Illicit imports avoid these fees.

Brad with the illegally-bought cigarettes
Brad with the illegally-bought cigarettes

Newsline offered a range of black-market cigarettes.

A pack of 20 Benson & Hedges Option was produced from the storeroom, retailing at £6, instead of £10.75.

Stone Street Groceries was also charging £6 for 20 Marlboro Golds.

Our findings were passed to Kent Trading Standards.

Ako Mohamadi from International Bargain Food Store said the cigarettes had been brought in by people who had been on holiday to Europe, but that the shop had ceased selling them after receiving a letter from the council.

When KentOnline returned to the store this week only legal cigarettes were sold.

Newsline and Stone Street Groceries continued to offer the packets from overseas this week.

No one from those stores was available to comment.

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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