You won’t have seen this dodgy DIY hiding place before
Gloucestershire County Council has successfully scoped over £1,300 worth of illegal tobacco and cigarettes as part of a trading standards sting in Cheltenham.
Over 182 packets of 20 cigarettes and 62 pouches of 50g rolling tobacco were found in the shop which can’t be named due to ongoing investigations.
Much of the tobacco was counterfeit; none was duty paid and all failed to comply with labelling requirements.
The tobacco was found in a hole in a partition wall which was hidden from view by a row of kitchen wall cabinets. These wall cabinets were held closed by remote controlled electro magnets. When the magnet is released, the wall cabinet swings away from the wall revealing the stash of illegal tobacco. Illegal tobacco was found in holes behind 2 of these kitchen cabinets.
There were two males present in the premises – one behind the counter serving customers and the other out of view behind the cigarettes display. They would pass illegal tobacco to order to one another behind the counter using a hole in the back of the cigarette display. During the visit, trading standards officers witnessed three customers requesting this cheap illegal tobacco.
Cllr Nigel Moor, cabinet member for fire, planning and infrastructure, said: “The sale of illegal tobacco undermines legitimate businesses in Gloucestershire and funds criminal activity.
“This latest example demonstrates the degree of sophistication involved in illegal tobacco sales and suggests a highly skilled operation. However, our officers are no fools and let this be yet another warning - break the law, and we will catch you.”
Cllr Tim Harman, cabinet member for public health, said: “Illegal tobacco is often produced without being subject to quality control. Aside from the usual health concerns associated with smoking; ingredients such as rat droppings, tea and dangerous heavy metals have all been found in counterfeit tobacco seized in the UK.
“It is crucial that those who choose to endanger public health in this way are brought to justice.”