A man has been arrested in connection with the seizure of thousands of suspected illegal cigarettes in raids on three sites in a village.
Operation Jellyfish saw Durham County Council, assisted by Durham Constabulary, seize nearly 9,000 cigarettes and packets of tobacco, worth more than £3,500, from three sites
at Blackhall Colliery.
The council has said the llegal tobacco is thought to be worth thousands of pounds.
In response to information received by the council’s trading standards team, search warrants were executed at a shop, dwelling and a container unit.
Officers found 8,800 counterfeit cigarettes.
The 440 packets had an approximate average resale value of £4.50 each giving a total value of approximately £1,980.
They also uncovered 9.5 kilograms of hand rolling tobacco.
This was in 190 packets, each of which had an approximate average resale value of £9 – giving a value of approximately £1,710.
In all the products had a combined worth of £3,690.
A 48-year-old man from Blackhall Colliery was arrested for offences related to illegal tobacco.
He was later released on bail pending further inquiries.
Joanne Waller, the council’s head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: “These warrants followed an investigation into the supply of illicit tobacco in the Blackhall Colliery area, and demonstrate our ongoing commitment to tackling the issue of illegal tobacco in our neighbourhoods.
“As well as it being a serious criminal offence to supply counterfeit tobacco products, illegal cigarettes are known to make it easier for children to start smoking, and encourage smokers to keep smoking and to smoke more.
"The illegal tobacco trade is also linked to types of crime.”
Inspector Sara Baxter, of Durham Constabulary, said: “We constantly work with our partner agencies to reduce the harm caused in our communities by the illegal trade in
“Illicit cigarettes often end up in the hands of children and the profits often find their way to organised crime gangs.
“We would urge members of the public to continue reporting criminal activity in our communities so we can take action to prevent it.”
Residents can report illegal tobacco anonymously by calling 0300 999 0000, or by completing an online form at www.keep-it-out.co.uk.