£100,000 of illegal cigarettes and tobacco seized after operation with raids in Blackhall Colliery
Illicit cigarettes and tobacco worth more than £100,000 have been seized by officials from addresses as part of an operation.
Durham County Council Trading Standards officers carried out warrants on three addresses in Blackhall Colliery following a Trading Standards investigation into the supply of illegal tobacco products from a shop in the village.
Two warrants were also carried out at addresses in Middlesbrough in the latest clampdown.
During the operation, officers seized more than 165,000 illicit cigarettes and 53 kilograms of hand rolling tobacco.
Officials say on the black market the products would have had a retail value of over £62,000.
And on the legitimate market they would be worth more than £100,000.
Owen Cleugh, Durham County Council’s public protection manager, said: “Selling illegal tobacco affects communities on many levels.
"As well as having a serious impact on health, it brings crime and nuisance to neighbourhoods, makes it easier for children to get hold of cheap tobacco, and undermines the efforts of stop smoking services.
“It also affects legitimate retailers who operate within the law.”
Almost £15,000 in cash of suspected criminal proceeds was also seized and a car which officials will hold on to until the conclusion of their enquiries.
Two men have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply counterfeit tobacco products and conspiracy to launder money.
They were interviewed by the Trading Standards team and have been released under investigation while enquiries continue.
The operation was carried out with support from the North East Regional Special Operations Unit, Durham Constabulary, Cleveland Police and the National Crime Agency.
It was also supported by Operation Cece, a National Trading Standards project funded by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to tackle supplies of illegal tobacco.
Kevin Benson, from the North East Regional Special Operations Unit, added: “We regularly work with our partner agencies to reduce the harm caused in our communities by the illegal trade in tobacco.
“Illicit cigarettes can often end up in children’s hands and the profits often find their way to criminals.
“We would urge all members of the public to continue reporting criminal activity in their neighbourhoods so we can take action to prevent it.”
Information about illicit tobacco can be given anonymously by calling 0300 9990000 or online at keep-it-out.co.uk