£100,000 of tobacco seized as police raid shops and a house in Hartlepool
Police have confiscated £100,000 worth of cigarettes and tobacco after high profile raids on Hartlepool businesses suspected of having links to organised crime.
Around 30 police officers, together with revenue and customs and trading standards officials, carried out surprise searches of two shops and a neighbouring flat in Murray Street on the morning of Friday November 29.
It was part of Cleveland Police’s Operational Sentinel aimed at disrupting the activities of an alleged organised crime group believed to be involved in drug dealing, counterfeit tobacco and money laundering.
The force said they had received hundreds of pieces of intelligence about alleged criminal activity linked to the businesses in the last six months.
It followed searches of three takeaways on York Road and Raby Road on Saturday, November 23, when tobacco was seized and £80,000 in fines issued over the use of illegal workers.
Sergeant Adrian Dack said: “Today’s operation is part of our Operation Sentinel which is tackling organised crime here in the Cleveland area.
“We’ve had a lot of complaints from this area of the town in relation to drug dealing, counterfeit cigarettes being sold. All of the properties are linked.
“It follows on from our operation we did on Saturday night with the takeaways in the town. We issued £80,000 worth of fines for illegal workers in relation to that.
“We were responding to the community and what they’re asking us to do and what they are telling us.
“And working with our partner agencies which at this time we really need to do and we need to make more of that opportunity to maximise the powers that they have in relation to counterfeit cigarettes, especially colleagues from HMRC.”
Numerous police vehicles descended on Murray Street at around 11am closing off a section of the road.
One person was arrested on suspicion of burglary after being seen fleeing from a flat next to one of the businesses.
A subsequent search of the address uncovered a large amount of suspected illegal tobacco products.
Soon after the raids in Murray Street, officers then carried out a drugs warrant at a house in Charterhouse Street but nothing was found.
Sergeant Dack added: “Today’s operation wasn’t solely about recovering illegal goods, it was also to highlight to our communities that we do listen to them and we will do everything we can to disrupt criminal activity.
“The safety and welfare of members of the public is our utmost priority and if we can crack down on criminal activity we will go out of our way to do it.
“I would like to thank officers from the Force and partner agencies for their hard work and dedication today.”