Four people have been arrested after almost 300,000 illicit cigarettes were seized from a shop and homes in Grimsby.
Trading Standards, along with a number of police officers, discovered a haul of illegal products at a shop in the Freeman Street area of Grimsby, as well as inside residential properties and a car, on December 7.
A total of 299,240 illicit cigarettes and 130.75 kilos of tobacco were found, with four people arrested and three cars also seized. The products had a legitimate value of £238,033, and a street value of £103,575.
It was a joint operation between North East Lincolnshire Council, Humberside Police and Humberside Fire and Rescue, as part of a national anti-illicit tobacco drive which falls under the Operation CeCe umbrella.
Councillor Ron Shepherd, portfolio holder for safer and stronger communities at NELC, explains what Operation CeCe is.
He said: “Operation CeCe seeks to protect local communities from the harm that the illegal tobacco trade brings. Beyond the significant effects of tobacco on people’s health, the illicit tobacco trade is often part of other criminal activity including drug smuggling, people-trafficking and illegal alcohol and DVD production.
“The intended sale price of seized cigarettes is often less than half the cost of legal tobacco. This not only undermines work to reduce the number of people who smoke but also impacts legitimate businesses.
“This operation marks the first collaboration between national Trading Standards and HMRC, and I am delighted that the first six months have been hugely successful in removing a significant amount of illegal tobacco products off our streets and disrupting this illicit trade.”
According to Simon York, director of fraud investigation service at HMRC, the illicit cigarette trade costs the UK taxpayer around £2.3 billion a year, which is why the onus is on the powers that be to clamp down on the issue.
Mr York said: “Operation CeCe shows our determination to tackle the menace of illicit tobacco. This is a trade that costs the UK taxpayer around £2.3 billion a year, undermining our vital public services and bankrolling a host of other crimes that harm communities, including guns, drugs and human trafficking.
“Those involved readily undercut legitimate businesses and don’t care who they sell to, including children. HMRC and Trading Standards are determined to stamp out the illicit tobacco trade, as these results clearly show.”