A store in Middlesbrough has been closed down over the sale of illegal tobacco following a joint operation by Middlesbrough Trading Standards and HMRC.

The investigation involved the Vegas store on Abingdon Road and the residential flat above it following numerous complaints to Trading Standards about sales and storage of illicit tobacco at both premises.

Teesside Magistrates Court heard that in November 2023, HMRC officers seized 57,000 illicit cigarettes and 16.95kg of hand rolling tobacco from the shop and flat and associated residential addresses and vehicles. Further test purchases of tobacco have since been obtained by Trading Standards in recent months.

Teesside Magistrates Court Magistrates granted three-month closure orders against both the retail premises and the flat after being satisfied that there was criminal behaviour at the premises and that the orders were necessary to prevent it. The store owner was also ordered to pay costs of £1,105.79.

Head of Public Protection at Middlesbrough Council Judith Hedgley said: “Illicit tobacco brings health harms and crime into our communities through its supply links with organised crime groups. The Trading Standards team will continue to work closely with our enforcement partners to do everything possible to disrupt this evil trade.”

Middlesbrough Mayor Chris Cooke added: “I’m delighted that the courts continue to back our campaign to stamp out this cynical and dangerous trade which is all too often linked to organised crime.

“We will continue to use all means at our disposal to protect our law-abiding residents and legitimate businesses, and make Middlesbrough a safe and thriving place for everyone.”