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Illegal tobacco and fake goods sniffed out by customs team
2:41pm Thursday 19th December 2013 in News
Nearly £40,000 of illegal tobacco and counterfeit goods have been seized by Hampshire County Council Trading Standards and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in a joint operation.
A sniffer dog detected nearly 4kg of hand rolling tobacco and cigarettes and another 1kg was voluntarily surrendered. Officers from Trading Standard’s Fair Trading Team also confiscated hundreds of fake designer handbags, clothing, DVDs and watches which would have had a street value of more than £36,000.
The illegal tobacco had a street value of around £1,580 and amounted to £970 in lost tax revenue.
The joint Hampshire County Council and HMRC operation took place on Sunday 15 December at Blackbushe Market on the Hampshire/Surrey border. Blackbushe is one of the largest outdoor Sunday markets in the country.
Previous intelligence and a voluntary handover of illegal tobacco led to one seller being formally warned and banned from the market earlier in the year, but further information and increasing seizures of illegal tobacco across the UK led to this joint exercise.
Officers reported that the tobacco was found concealed in vehicles associated with the stalls and were discovered with the aid of a tobacco detector dog. Sniffer dog Phoebe and her handler Stuart Phillips were supplied to the operation by Dog Detection specialists B.W.Y Canine.
Councillor Roy Perry, Leader of Hampshire County Council said: "The sale of illegal tobacco is a serious criminal offence. These criminal activities severely damage the local economy and legitimate traders by gaining a competitive advantage at their expense, and taking trade away from genuine hard-working businesses. As it becomes harder for under 18s to buy from legitimate sources, illegal tobacco trading creates a cheap source that fuels smoking by young people, giving them habits that put their health at risk into adulthood.”
Bob Gaiger, HMRC spokesman for Hampshire and Surrey, said: “HMRC works with other law enforcement agencies to target anyone we suspect is selling or smuggling illicit tobacco. We relentlessly pursue any individuals or crime gangs believed to be involved in this type of criminal activity. It is not a victimless crime and undermines the efforts of legitimate traders.”
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