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Local tip-offs shop illegal trader
Tuesday 18th May, 2010

Trading Standards and HM Revenue & Customs officers have confiscated tobacco and cigarettes in a raid on a Leigh town centre shop long suspected of under the counter sales.

After receiving a number of tip-offs from the public, Wigan Council’s Trading Standards officers together with HM Revenue & Customs organised the raid, which led to the seizure of 1200 cigarettes and 1.75kg of tobacco.

Attempts by Trading Standards officers to gather evidence through undercover test purchase operations proved to be a significant challenge, as staff in the shop were very cautious about who they sold to.

However, once a test purchase was successfully made, it was all systems go.

HMRC and Trading Standards officers entered the premises on Tuesday 11th May and found the cigarettes and tobacco extremely well hidden in a concealed storage area.

“Whilst this is a comparatively small seizure, it is a significant one,” says Julie Middlehurst, Wigan Council’s Chief Trading Standards Officer.

“Although we had our suspicions about illegal activity, we had no solid evidence, so this was a major breakthrough. The shop had clearly gone to great effort to hide their activities.

“This is not a victimless crime. The trade in illegal cigarettes is linked to serious organised crime, it costs the economy millions each year and leads to the distribution of illegal cigarettes to people of all ages, including children. Combating the sale of illicit tobacco remains one of our top priorities.”

The value of the goods, thought to be the remainder of a larger consignment recently received by the shop, equates to £471 in unpaid UK duty.

They also contravened laws which require health warnings to be displayed on all tobacco products. The products seized did not clearly display this legal information so smokers would be unable to measure the strength of the produce or the levels of tar and nicotine.

Enquiries are continuing by both Trading Standards and HMRC officers.
Julie adds:

“Wigan Council Trading Standards frequently work with HMRC on joint visits looking for duty free or counterfeit cigarettes and alcohol and we would urge anyone with information about illegal sales of tobacco and alcohol to call the Consumer Direct helpline in confidence on 08454 04 05 06 (calls charged at local rate) or HMRC hotline on 0800 59 5000 (free).”

For further information contact Cathie Peloe on 01942 827694.

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