Over 90,000 cigarettes and 3.5kg of rolling tobacco were seized as Trading Standards and police raided five shops on Portland Street in Lincoln over the last six months.
During the first raid on February 26, officers seized 50,000 cigarettes and 2kg of hand rolling tobacco from the five stores known to be selling illicit tobacco.
Trading Standards then contacted each of the shop landlords and, in two cases, the landlords took immediate action and evicted the problem tenants.
Three of the five shops were raided again by officers from Trading Standards and police on August 20. A further 40,0000 cigarettes and 1.5kg of rolling tobacco were seized and one arrest was made.
In one store, sniffer dogs alerted officers to illegal cigarettes hidden in three secret compartments behind a wall in a toilet.
In another shop, officers discovered the illegal products hidden in a compartment with a magnetic lock when they noticed the grouting on one section of a tiled wall was a different colour.
The raids, which were carried out between February and August this year, were all part of Operation Buckhorn, a joint venture between Trading Standards, Lincolnshire Police and HMRC.
Trading Standards investigations continue to bring prosecutions against the retailers.
Andy Wright, Principal Trading Standards Officer at Lincolnshire County Council explained: “The availability of illegal tobacco acts as a magnet attracting anti-social behaviour and other crime to an area. We are pleased to be working with Lincolnshire Police to tackle this problem on Portland Street and feel we’ve already made a significant difference.”
He added: “We’re keen to continue to work with premises landlords to bring an end to this illegal activity, and I believe two are already seeking to take legal action against tenants. With their help we could soon see the selling of illegal cigarettes on Portland Street as a thing of the past.”
Phil Elliot, Acting Inspector at Lincolnshire Police, said: “The ultimate goal of the operation is to stop the illegal practices at the shops on a permanent basis because it was identified that young people were being drawn to the shops to purchase these illicit cigarettes exposing them to significant risks.
“Improving the safety of children in the area has been the main concern of all agencies and I truly believe this has been achieved.”