Two arrested after raid led to seizure of thousands of cigarettes

Bags of tobacco filled following the search of two properties in Seaham.
Bags of tobacco filled following the search of two properties in Seaham.

A raid has led to the arrest of two people as part of an inquiry into suspected illicit tobacco.

A woman in her late fifties and a man in his late sixties were detained on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of illicit tobacco, in a raid on a home in Seaham.

Some of the tobacco seized by police and council officials following a raid in Seaham.

Some of the tobacco seized by police and council officials following a raid in Seaham.

The search was carried out by Durham County Council with support from Durham Constabulary.

The council’s consumer protection officers seized 6,400 cigarettes and 3.75 kilos of hand rolling tobacco – with an estimated street value of £1,720.

All were believed to be either counterfeit or smuggled.

More than £1,600 in cash was also detained in the dawn raid on two properties, with the man and woman later bailed as inquiries continue.

They came on the back of similar raids at Seaham last month, in which two people were arrested and more than £8,000 in cash and 18,000 suspected illicit cigarettes

with an estimated street value of £9,500 seized.

Since April 2015 the consumer protection team has seized in excess of 480,000 cigarettes, more than 70kg of illicit hand rolled tobacco and over £50,000 in raids linked to

the supply of suspected illicit tobacco.

Joanne Waller, head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: “The high level of enforcement in this area reflects the concerns within communities of illegal sales of

tobacco and the willingness of the public to report such activity.

“The message is clear to those still involved in supplying illegal tobacco.

“If you don’t stop now it is only a matter of time before you too will be paid a visit and more than likely face prosecution and proceeds of crime action.”

The County Durham Tobacco Alliance, a multi-agency partnership involving the council, aims to reduce numbers of people smoking in the county by five percent by the year 2030

due to the risk it poses to health.

Controlling the supply of illicit tobacco is seen as a key part of this.

The sale of cheap cigarettes means people - especially those living in deprived areas - are less likely to give up.

Those who supply illicit tobacco also circumvent all the safeguards in place for proper regulation of such produce.

Anyone found guilty of supplying counterfeit tobacco could face up to 10 years in jail and unlimited fines.

In addition, their assets may be seized through proceeds of crime action.

Information about illegal tobacco sellers can be reported in confidence on the illegal tobacco hotline on 0300 999 0000 or by emailing tradingstandards@durham.gov.uk