19,000 illegal cigarettes seized in Ipswich raids
- Credit: Su Anderson
Smuggled cigarettes worth thousands of pounds have been taken off the streets of Ipswich after a series of raids in several shops.
Trained sniffer dogs worked with Suffolk Trading Standards and Suffolk Constabulary during searches for illegal tobacco at eight shops across the town yesterday.
The raids uncovered 19,000 illegal cigarettes, 8kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco, and a quantity of illegal alcohol.
At one of the shops targeted, just under 4,000 illegal cigarettes gathered were hidden under garlic cloves in a bid to prevent a sniffer dog from detecting them.
Immigration enforcement officers also took part in the raids.
Clare Davies, senior trading standards officer at Suffolk Trading Standards, said: “The main purpose of the raids was to highlight the problem of illegal tobacco and the potential problems associated with that and to increase awareness for the public to encourage people to report it so we can carry out more work.
“This operation (Operation Mercury) targeted premises for which we have intelligence to suggest that they are dealing with illicit tobacco, and it is multi-operation because we believe that there will be other illegal activity taking place.”
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She added: “There are lots of problems associated with illegal tobacco, which can be counterfeit or unsafe and can be potentially linked to house fires if it is not manufactured in accordance with British Standards which are quite strict.
“There is also potential harm to the local economy and it undermines the level playing field which we aim to achieve. Our aim in Suffolk is to have a rogue-free county and we do not tolerate any illegal activity that undermines genuine retailers trying to make an honest living.”
Two sniffer dogs, including a five-year-old English Springer Spaniel named Bradley, were sent in to the stores after officers presented the shopkeepers with their search warrants.
The dogs are trained to sit when they think they have detected the scent of illegal tobacco.
In one of the shops, a hinged-cabinet was eventually found under the till where Bradley had sat. However, nothing was found inside.
But at another store during a raid taking place at the same time, a Labrador sniffer dog helped officers uncover 3,980 illegal cigarettes hidden among garlic cloves, while 1.25kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco was also gathered.