A factory churning out hundreds of thousands of pounds of counterfeit branded tobacco has been closed down following a raid by Croydon council trading standards, police and Imperial Tobacco.
Officers found 4,600 50g packets of fake Golden Virginia rolling tobacco, with an approximate street value of £85,000, packed and ready for sale.
The illegal factory was fully equipped to make large quantities of fake tobacco. The officers found instructions and a recipe guide, equipment to steam and mix the raw tobacco leaf, heavy equipment to remove the leaf from the stalk, to shred it and to pack and seal it.
Significant quantities of raw, and part-processed, tobacco leaf, aromas, additives, security labels, empty packet sleeves and outers were also found.
During July, the criminal gang responsible produced more than 13,000 packets with a street value in the region of £250,000. It is estimated there was sufficient material on site to make a further £250,000-worth of fakes.
It’s the first time such a large-scale organised criminal manufacturing plant has been found in Croydon and the biggest seizure of its kind made by the trading standards team.
Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice, said the raid had “seriously dented what was obviously a highly organised criminal enterprise”.
“These counterfeit packs of tobacco were, on the face of it, very high quality. Anyone who bought them would not necessarily have realised anything was amiss until they smoked the tobacco, when the poor quality would have immediately become obvious.”
The raid followed cosumer complaints when packs of the fake tobacco were found being sold from a small independent supermarket in Kent. Investigations are ongoing.