Dog helps sniff out dodgy cigarettes and tobacco as checks are carried out across Sunderland shops
A specially-trained tobacco dog has helped police and Trading Standards officers uncover a haul of illegal substances across Wearside.
The sniffer dog accompanied Sunderland City Council's team and Northumbria Police as they carried out visits to retail premises across the city – successfully uncovering a large supply of items of concern.
Premises were targeted based on prior intelligence and more than 2,000 illegal cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco was found and seized.
The initiative took place under Operation CeCe, a National Trading Standards campaign in partnership with HMRC, to tackle illegal tobacco.
The seized products will now be fully assessed to determine the exact offences that have been committed.
Inquiries and investigations remain ongoing.
Fiona Brown, the council’s Executive Director of Neighbourhoods, said: "This successful operation is part of Sunderland City Council's ongoing strategy to identify and disrupt the supply of illegal tobacco.
"Not only do those involved in the distribution of illegal tobacco undermine legitimate businesses, they also encourage people, including children, to smoke by providing a cheap source.
"The impact of the illegal tobacco trade is far reaching. It is often part of wider criminality including drug smuggling and people trafficking.
"This operation sends out a clear warning to retailers that we will not tolerate the selling of illegal tobacco in our city.
"Any business owners who are unclear about the law should contact our Trading Standards Team for advice."
Chief Inspector Phil Baker, of Northumbria Police, said: "We are delighted to have helped take these illegal goods off the streets.
"Some people may think the selling of counterfeit goods is a victimless crime, but quite often they can be a product of organised crime.
"Groups can supply them into the region with the intention of making money, which enables them to then continue to fund illicit activities.
"This joint-operation with Sunderland City Council was the result of weeks of planning, and under the banner of Operation Sentinel, we will continue to pursue criminals and protect our communities by tackling serious and organised crime."
Information from the public is vital in helping to stamp out the supply of illegal tobacco.
Reports can be made anonymously by contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or at www.keep-it-out.co.uk.