Officials swoop on illicit goods sold in Mansfield and Ashfield

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Illicit alcohol and cigarettes were seized from shops last week in Mansfield and Ashfield as part of a crackdown.

Counterfeit and untaxed tobacco products, with an estimated street value of £20,000, were seized from six shops across the county.

Nottinghamshire County Council’s Trading Standards team and HM Revenue and Customs targeted 10 shops based on information about the alleged sale of illegal tobacco products at these premises.

During the swoop, they seized 27,480 cigarettes and 18.05kg tobacco from three shops in Sutton and 200 cigarettes, nine bottles of non-duty liquor and three bottles of homebrew liquor from a Mansfield shop.

An examination by the brand holders confirmed that some of the products seized are counterfeit copies of genuine brands. Further investigations into the goods seized will follow.

Sniffer dogs from Wagtail International Specialist Dog Services were used to finds the goods.

Sarah Houlton, who is Trading Standards manager at the county council, said: “Unfortunately, unscrupulous shopkeepers are sometimes tempted to sell illegal tobacco products as a sideline business with little regard for the impact on their customers’ health, legitimate traders and reduced tax revenue for vital public services.

“These products often contain higher rates of toxic substances and do not have the correct health warnings.

“We want to send out the message to other traders that we not tolerate the sale of counterfeit goods in the county.”

Meanwhile, Jennie Kendall, from HMRC, said: “Low cost tobacco and alcohol products can often seem very attractive to local people, lured into purchasing them at what seem like bargain prices.

“However, the truth is these goods have been smuggled and these sales are unlicensed and unregulated.

“Those involved are not concerned if they are selling to children and underage young people and the illicit trade has a devastating impact on legitimate retailers and the local community.”

She added: “We all pay extra to compensate for the money these criminals steal and with the economic challenges being faced by businesses and the public, our focus must remain relentless to deter and disrupt the illegal trade. With over £2 billion in revenue being drained from public finances each year by the illicit tobacco trade alone the problem of excise fraud is a real one, which we are determined to crack.”

As part on the ongoing crackdown on the sale of illicit tobacco and alcohol around Nottinghamshire, the public is being asked to do their bit by reporting any suspicious activity.

Anyone with information should call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 04 05 06 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Alternatively, visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org.uk.

Residents who have any information on tobacco smuggling are encouraged to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000 or email customs.hotline@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk.