Published: 18:55, 03 April 2021
| Updated: 18:56, 03 April 2021
An underground tattoo parlour was shut down after a chance find by officers raiding shops selling knock-off tobacco.
More than 6,000 packets of cigarettes were seized and eight shops were shut down as police and trading standards raided 21 businesses across Margate, Ramsgate and Folkestone between Friday, March 19 and Thursday, March 25.
But was while raiding five in Thanet on Tuesday - an operation which saw two shut down, 650 packs of cigarettes and £500 seized - that officers uncovered the tattoo parlour. It was issues with a Covid-19 prohibition notice ordering it to close.
Raids began on Friday when six premises were attended simultaneously by trading standards, police and immigration officers in Ramsgate and Margate.
Approximately £2,000 and 5,000 packets of cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco were seized, three shops were forced to close due to being operated by illegal workers, a referral made to KFRS due to unsafe premises and significant intelligence was found to link members of organised crime.
Despite action being taken against businesses on the Friday more goods were seized when officials returned to the same stores four days later.
On Monday four businesses were visited, with £1,500, 613 packets of cigarettes and 89 pouches of hand rolling tobacco seized.
Officers shut down two shops being operated by workers without leave to work.
Police, trading standards and the Folkestone and Hythe licensing team raided six shops in the town on Thursday.
Immigration offences were referred to the relevant authorities, with one shop forced to shut.
A referral was made to the fire service due to another being used as a house, 11 pouches of hand rolling tobacco were seized, while some businesses were linked to to anti-social behaviour.
Due to ongoing investigations none of the businesses have been named.
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.
“Illegal tobacco brings organised crime into our communities while making smoking more affordable for those attempting to quit and making it more accessible to young people. Shops selling illegal tobacco can be reported anonymously through 0300 999 6 999 or by visiting www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk .”