Almost 200,000 illegal cigarettes were seized from premises in Northampton last month.
Police officers joined forces with partners including His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Trading Standards, and members of the Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) disruption team from the East Midlands Specialist Operations Unit, to visit five premises in Northampton as part of ongoing activity to tackle the illegal importation and sale of illicit goods.
The operation took place in December and saw approximately 44,000 illegal cigarettes and 12.5kilos of tobacco recovered from one shop. Trading Standards seized 932 illegal vapes from the same premises.
Further visits were conducted to lock-up storage sites within the county, and two seizures of 145,740 cigarettes and almost 22kgs of Hand Rolled Tobacco (HRT) were made.
Steve Woolmer, Disruption Officer for GAIN, led the operation, he said: “Results like this really show the power of partnership working. Without support from our colleagues at HMRC this action wouldn’t have taken place, and these potentially dangerous items could be sold to unsuspecting members of the public.”
A spokesperson for HMRC said: “The illicit tobacco trade steals money from our vital public services, undercuts legitimate businesses and can fund other serious crimes that impact our communities. We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco or alcohol to report it to HMRC online.”
Detective Chief Inspector Nick Cobley, who leads on serious and organised crime for Northamptonshire Police, said: “Organised gangs are involved in many different crime types, including the distribution of illegal cigarettes, tobacco and vapes.
“People often think nothing of buying cheaper goods, particularly in the current climate, but there can be consequences for your health.
“Tackling organised crime is a priority for us and I would urge anyone with information about those involved in crime to call us on 101, report online via northants.police.uk or by calling Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
Trading Standards have different powers to police officers and colleagues from West Northamptonshire Council were on hand to support the operation.
Cllr David Smith, Cabinet Member for Community Safety & Engagement and Regulatory Services at WNC, said: “By working closely with our partners we can tackle organised crime head on. The sale of illegal and illicit items is extremely dangerous for our communities, with these items causing a potential harmful impact for anyone who purchases them. We are pleased to have been able to support this operation and seize 900 vapes from being sold.”
The Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) is a collaboration of law enforcement agencies, who work together to disrupt serious and organised crime. Partners are able to identify opportunities for other agencies to work with police to disrupt and reduce the threat and harm serious and organised criminals pose to our communities.