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More than one million cigs seized across city.

Byline: BEN ECCLESTON Crime Reporter ben.eccleston@trinitymirror.com

OVER one million illegal cigarettes were seized in Coventry by Trading Standards during a single year.

Officers also laid their hands on 170kg - over 26 stone - of hand rolling tobacco as they swooped on shops, cars and houses across the city.

Many of the cigarettes and tobacco packs, which had been counterfeit or smuggled to avoid tax, were found hidden inside sophisticated hiding places. Some of the secret compartments could only be opened by remote control and were built into shop counters or operated a lift mechanism built into the floor or walls.

It is estimated that the confiscated goods would have had a street value of around PS245,000.

The huge haul was confiscated from April 2016 to March this year as Coventry Trading Standards conducted 148 visits to various shops across the city.

Seizures also occurred from cars, vans and private houses, which are often used to store the illegal tobacco.

Allan Harwood, Coventry City Council's Trading Standards and Consumer Protection Manager, said: "The level of seizures reflect the efforts we are putting in to stop the illicit trade in counterfeit and smuggled tobacco.

"We have had single seizures in excess of 100,000 cigarettes and have visited some shops three times in the same day only to find they have restocked with illicit tobacco.

"We will be conducting more visits and targeting those in the supply chain of this sophisticated and organised crime."

Trading Standards often use specially trained tobacco search dogs to find hiding places, while police and immigration officers often attend visits as other criminality can be found, such as illegal immigrants working inside the shops and vehicles being used which have no insurance or tax.

Anyone who has information about anyone selling illegal products can contact Coventry Trading Standards on 03454 040506 or email trading.standards@coventry.gov.uk

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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 15, 2017
Words:314
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