Woof justice for illegal tobacco sellers
Thanks to the long arm of the paw, Gloucestershire County Council’s Trading Standards team have discovered a large haul of illegal tobacco in a Gloucester shop.
Trading Standards Officers were joined on the raid by ‘Scamp’, a Springer Spaniel, and handler Stuart Phillips of B.W.Y. Canine Ltd to carry out the raid on the shop near Gloucester City Centre.
‘Scamp’ is a bit of a crime fighting celebrity across the country, helping trading standards teams around the UK to crack down on the illegal sale of tobacco.
Using his nose for crime, ‘Scamp’ was able to find the concealments at this latest raid in minutes. This was despite the best efforts of the shop keeper who started spraying deodorant around the shop soon after officers arrived in an effort to confuse the dog.
The first concealment was found in a store room at the rear of the premises behind a false wall measuring around 10 feet high and 4 feet wide.
It was disguised by a shelf and kept shut by remote controlled electromagnets which were so powerful, they resisted a crowbar. It was only when the wood the electromagnets were screwed to broke that the concealment could be forced open.
The system was powered from the mains with a battery back up meaning that when officers turned the power off, the electromagnets continued to function keeping the concealment securely closed.
The second concealment was a more basic panel at the end of the counter held closed by a catch. When closed, “false” screws hid the fact that the ends of the wooden panels were not in fact screwed together.
Counterfeit brands including Mayfair, Richmond and Regal were found together with other brands not found in the UK including Minsk and Fest.
In total, there were 422 packets of 20 cigarettes and 109 pouches of 50g hand rolling tobacco which would have netted the shop around £2,500 if sold.
After all his hard work, all ‘Scamp’ wanted as a thank you for his efforts to crack down on the supply of fake tobacco was a play with his tennis ball.
Cllr Nigel Moor, cabinet member responsible for trading standards at Gloucestershire County Council said: “This demonstrates the degree of sophistication involved in the sale of illegal tobacco. The hiding place has taken time and effort to create, suggesting a highly profitable activity.
“Thankfully we had the brilliant team from B.W.Y. on hand to help and ‘Scamp’ helped us to get a great result.
“Trading standards will continue to prosecute shop owners who sell illegal tobacco from their shops.”
Cllr Tim Harman, cabinet member for public health at Gloucestershire County Council, said: “Whilst we all know the dangers of smoking, counterfeit tobacco is often made without being subject to quality control and in many cases, the cigarettes do not self-extinguish as legal cigarettes are required to by EU law.
“I would urge smokers to stop supporting criminal activity by buying illegal tobacco and to seek support from the smoking cessation service at www.hlsglos.org.”