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Friday 16 July 2010



A crackdown on the sale of illicit tobacco has seen the Consumer Protection and Investigations Team hitting the streets of Crewe this week.

On Thursday, July 15, the team joined forces with Cheshire Police, the North West Immigration Service and HM Revenue & Customs in Operation Medallion – targeting those who sell counterfeit, bootlegged or smuggled tobacco products.

They visited businesses and residential properties in the Crewe area, including the town centre.

The results were as follows:

  • 7,500 cigarettes were seized along with suspected illicit tobacco, counterfeit vodka and cannabis.
  • A total of four entry warrants were executed.
  • Three people were arrested and are being questioned by police.

Investigations are now underway by the Cheshire East Trading Standards team and Cheshire Police.

The sale of illicit tobacco has close links with organised crime. Duty lost to the Treasury from the sale of illicit tobacco products is estimated to be £2.5 billion a year.

HM Revenue & Customs estimate that 45% of all tobacco seizures are counterfeit – these are imitations of branded cigarettes/tobacco made from inferior ingredients and materials. Although cheaper than genuine brands, they have been known to contain sawdust, tobacco beetles, pieces of plastic and even rat droppings.

Bootlegged tobacco is illegally imported from countries with a low rate of tobacco taxation. Smuggled tobacco tends to be a legitimate product, illegally imported on a large scale and distributed on the black market for sale to the public.

Cheshire East Councillor Rachel Bailey, Cabinet member for safer and stronger communities, said: “This is an excellent example of how Cheshire East Council can work with partner agencies to successfully tackle the problem of illicit tobacco.

“Tobacco sold at very cheap prices makes it readily available to young people. I would urge any smoker to think twice before purchasing illicit tobacco and to think about the inferior products it may contain.”

Kay Roberts, head of Cheshire East Council’s Consumer Protection and Investigations Team, added: “This operation shows our ongoing commitment to protecting residents of from unscrupulous sellers of illicit tobacco.  I hope today we have sent a clear message that we will use every law enforcement power at our disposal to stop this illegal trade.”

Anyone with concerns about the sale of illicit tobacco is asked to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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