West Lindsey District Council

140,000 illegal cigarettes have been seized following raids on three stores and a residential property in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.

The searches of the four sites were carried out as part of a pre-planned, intelligence-led, multi-agency operation, involving officers from West Lindsey District Council, Lincolnshire County Council’s Trading Standards and Lincolnshire Police.

Kim Enderby, senior licensing and community safety officer for West Lindsey District Council, said the raids came about following tip-offs that the stores were involved in the sale of illicit cigarettes.

“The three stores were raided simultaneously, whilst local police officers from Gainsborough also executed a search warrant at the residential address.

“Seizures of illegal cigarettes were made from all three of the retail stores with a further quantity being seized from the house. Over 140,000 illegal cigarettes were seized, which will have a real impact on the individuals behind this activity. Further investigations are ongoing by all the organisations involved.”

Sergeant Amy Brigginshaw from Lincolnshire Police added: “All cigarettes are harmful, but some illegal and illicit goods, such as these made up of poor-quality ingredients, can actually be more damaging to a person’s health than an ordinary cigarette – they are not produced by licensed companies and contain unknown ingredients and quantities of chemicals. The sale of these goods is generating large incomes for criminal gangs and the loss of tax revenue means less money spent on your schools or hospitals.

“If you smoke, we urge you to purchase cigarettes and tobacco from reputable shops, where you know they have been produced by a licensed company.”

Andy Wright, Principal Trading Standards Officer at Lincolnshire County Council, explained seizures such as this are always investigated by the Trading Standards Service.

“My officers will now investigate to establish the person, or persons, responsible. Anything we can do to reduce the consumption of cigarettes generally, is in everyone’s interest. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that they kill people, it’s even written on the packets. The availability of non-duty paid, smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes such as those seized, clearly doesn’t help.”

Wright warned of the extent of the problem. “In many areas of Lincolnshire, we see a distinct relationship between retail of illegal cigarettes, anti-social behaviour, drugs, modern day slavery, and violent crime. The sale of illegal cigarettes is unacceptable to law abiding members of the community, but few realise the connection to more serious crime. The premises we inspected on Tuesday were used for the purpose of supplying illegal cigarettes and tobacco.

“Make no mistake, these are not local traders making a few quid on the side. These are part of national organised crime groups with links to more serious crime. If you have any information you feel may assist, we ask that you contact us.”

If you suspect that illegal tobacco products are being sold in your community - you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or report online at Crimestoppers