Four shops in Grantham, Lincolnshire, have closed after police officers and Lincolnshire Trading Standards uncovered illegal vapes and cigarettes hidden behind false shelving units.

Jaz Mini Market and Local Stores in Westgate, alongside Europe Foods and Biedronka, both in Wharf Road, have all been shut down for three months.

Signs have been placed on the outside of the buildings to offer an explanation to the public about the closures and demonstrate the action which will be taken when shops don’t operate within the law.

The orders mean that the businesses cannot trade during this time at those locations and anyone entering the properties other than landlords can face prosecution.

Police said that they found illegal vapes “hidden in the storage room behind false panels constructed into the shelving units”.

Sergeant Lee Mayfield commented: “Some of these were sophisticated and used magnetic mechanical components. We had also found a large quantity of illegal vapes and cigarettes at Jaz Mini Market, which also had hiding places for the goods. At Local Stores, we found counterfeit cigarettes. Some of the disposable vapes seized were offering 9,000 to 15,000 puffs per vape. As a rule, disposable vapes should have around 600 puffs in them, so they comply with the legal limits on size. We knew we needed to tackle this for our community, because we know that there can be associated crime and community impact.

“Each case is different, but the concerns we have are around human trafficking, money laundering and tax offenses and the significant health and safety implications linked to these illegal tobacco and vape products”.

Andy Wright principal Lincolnshire Trading Standards officer explained that there is a definite link between the sale of illegal cigarettes and other crime and anti-social behaviour: ”Closure orders allow us to immediately stop the supply of illicit products from the premises, but that isn’t the end of the story. In most cases, closure orders are the precursor to further legal cases against those selling these products, and we won’t hesitate to keep closing shops where illegal activity continues.

“The closure period lasts for a maximum of three months, and in appropriate circumstances we will apply for extensions for a further three months. That time is also being spent contacting landlords of the premises so that problem tenants are removed and there is no repetition of the criminal activity. We recognise the concerns of the public that closure orders can be a short term fix, but we use all the opportunities open to us to make sure illegal trading does not continue once the orders expire.”