Published: 16:03, 27 July 2021
| Updated: 17:03, 28 July 2021
Shops selling illegal cigarettes and tobacco have been shut down after police raided businesses selling untaxed items.
The 12,000 fags and almost 10kg of tobacco were found across four newsagents in the Medway towns.
A court order has now forced the stores to be temporarily closed down after an operation between police and fellow agencies.
Two shops in Chatham and a further two in Strood were shut after warrants were executed at five businesses across the two towns on July 16 and 17.
In total, 12,140 cigarettes and 9.8kg of rolling tobacco were seized after the required UK tax and duty had not been paid.
Specialist dog units trained to search for tobacco helped uncover the stash of cigarettes in the operation carried out alongside HMRC, Medway Council, the Home Office and the fire service.
In Chatham, raids took place at Chatham Express in the High Street, Kany Shop in the High Street and Supermart Xpress in Batchelor Street.
Warrants were also executed at MJ Mini Market in Darnley Road, Strood and Euro Market in Cedar Road, Strood.
Closure notices were served on July 19 at the Chatham Express in High Street, Chatham, Kany Shop in High Street, Chatham, MJ Mini Market in Darnley Road, Strood and Euro Market in Cedar Road, Strood until full closure hearings are heard in court.
A full closure hearing on Euro Market in Strood took place on Monday at Folkestone Magistrates' Court where it was ordered to close for three months.
The remaining court hearings are due to take place later this week.
Insp Steve Bassett, from the Medway Community Safety Unit at Kent Police, said: "This latest operation is just another example as to how we are continuing to tackle the ongoing sale of illicit cigarettes and tobacco across Medway.
"The sale of these items is well-organised and negatively affects legitimate law-abiding businesses operating in the same area.
"This type of criminality can also attract anti-social behaviour and violence.
"We work closely with partner agencies to ensure that good results are achieved as a result of these warrants and will continue to work with these agencies to ensure our combined powers are used to take the most robust action with the ultimate aim of reducing crime and keeping community safe."
A KentOnline investigation earlier this year found a Folkestone shop selling cheap and illegal tobacco as police battle the criminal trade which costs the UK taxpayer £2.2 billion per year.
Last November, 70,000 illegal smokes were found in Medway and a few weeks later a boot full were also found in an uninsured car in the towns.
It follows another closure at the Chatham Express store in Chatham High Street last July which saw it become the first shop in Kent to be closed under new policing powers.
The store had been searched four times in the space of two years and police took in more than 8,000 illegal cigarettes during the raid on the shop as it was forced to close for more than two months.