ILLEGAL cigarettes and tobacco were discovered below a manhole cover, suspended above an open drain at the rear of a shop in Rugby.
This was the second time illegal products have been found hidden in drains after a similar seizure in Leamington Spa.
Over 44,000 cigarettes and more than 400 packets of hand-rolling tobacco were seized when Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards Officers carried out raids on two shops in Rugby town centre.
Trading Standards Officers were supported by Warwickshire Police, Immigration Officers and sniffer dogs.
Acting on intelligence, officers visited two premises and discovered tobacco hidden in a drain, in a wheelie bin, in a flat behind one of the shops, and in a rear storeroom.
Trading Standards Officers used trained sniffer dogs to find the large haul which is estimated to have a resale value of £17,300 – or £32,852 if they had been genuine.
Warwickshire County Council’s community safety spokesman Coun Andy Crump said: “Warwickshire Trading Standards is committed to tackling the sale of illegal cigarettes and tobacco by organised criminal groups.
“The sale of cheap illegal tobacco undermines the work that is being done to cut smoking levels and save lives.”
PC Rebecca Bailey from Warwickshire Police said: “I’m really pleased with the outcome of this operation, working closely with partner agencies to take action against the sellers of these items.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, added: “The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law. The National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HRMC is playing a significant role in disrupting this illicit trade and is helping to take illegal tobacco products off the streets.”
“It is strongly encouraged that the community do not purchase illegal cigarettes from these businesses and if they are in doubt, report any suspicious activity to the police.”
Investigations into the two shops are ongoing.
Call 0300 303 2636 or visit https://centsa.org.uk/anonymous-hotline to report the sale of illegal tobacco to Warwickshire Trading Standards via the Central England Trading Standards Authorities.
See above to watch sniffer dog Yoyo discover a stash of illegal cigarettes and tobacco under a manhole cover.