Tobacco dog helps seize haul of 4,000 illegal cigarettes in Sunderland
A specially trained sniffer dog named Cooper has helped trading standards officers seize a haul of 4,000 illegal cigarettes.
Sunderland City Council said the seizures are the latest move in efforts drive to clamp down on illegal and antisocial behaviour after residents calls for more enforcement action.
The swoops also follow the seizure of some 2,000 illegal cigarettes in April this year.
Cooper accompanied the team from trading standards to retail premises across the city.
Premises across Sunderland were targeted based on prior intelligence and more than 4,000 illegal cigarettes were found and seized during the visits.
The seizures were part of Operation CeCe, a joint campaign between National Trading Standards (NTS) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to tackle illegal tobacco.
This has seen more than £27million worth of illegal products taken off the streets across England and Wales since its launch in January this year.
The seized products will now be fully assessed to determine the exact offences that have been committed. Enquiries and investigations remain ongoing.
Operation CeCe is part of a wider Government strategy to disrupt every aspect of the illegal tobacco market, from front-line retailers to global Organised Crime Groups who drive the illicit trade, smuggling tobacco internationally on a grand scale.
The strategy includes tackling supply lines at source by shutting down illegal factories, intercepting smuggled product and cash at the border and disrupting those individuals selling the product in shops and markets. All of which is achieved through close collaboration with law enforcement and other partners.
At a local level NTS works closely with local authorities to assist in the detection of illegal tobacco, the seizure of illegal tobacco products by trading standards and test purchasing activity to target those who supply these products.
Councillor Claire Rowntree, Deputy Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “This successful operation is part of our 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 of cigarettes, so this is very much about protecting our communities.
"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."
Information from the public is vital in helping to stamp out the supply of illegal tobacco. HMRC is encouraging anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to report it online at Report fraud to HMRC - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) or call the Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.
This latest seizure is the second this year using the tobacco dog. In April more than 2000 illegal cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco were found and seized during visits to retailers in the city.