KCC Trading Standards officers, with the support of Kent Police and immigrations teams, targeted illicit tobacco sellers in Margate, Ramsgate and Folkestone in a week-long intelligence-led operation.
A total of 21 premises were visited, resulting in more than 6,000 packets of cigarettes and rolling tobacco being seized, together with £4,000 cash, and eight shops were forced to close because of issues relating to staff working illegally or without leave to stay in the UK.
Premises across Thanet were targeted on the first day of the operation, (Friday, 19 March) and despite action being taken, more goods were seized when shops were revisited the following Monday and Tuesday.
The sequence of visits was as follows:
- 6 premises attended simultaneously by Trading Standards, Kent Police and immigration officers in Ramsgate and Margate.
- Approximately 5,000 packets of cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco were seized
- 3 shops were forced to close due to being operated by illegal workers
- Referral made to KFRS due to unsafe premises
- Further significant intelligence found to link members of organised crime
- Approximately £2,000 seized by Kent Police
- 4 premises visited by TS and Kent Police, 3 of which were open
- 613 packets of cigarettes and 89 pouches of hand rolling tobacco were seized
- 2 shops were forced to close due to being operated by workers without leave to work
- Police seized approximately £1,500 in cash from the shops and associated persons
- 5 premises were visited by TS and Kent Police, 4 of which were open
- About 650 packets of cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco were seized
- 2 premises were forced to shut
- About £500 was seized by Kent Police
- A Covid-19 prohibition notice was issued to a tattoo parlour found to be operating in the area
- 6 visits were conducted in Folkestone by Kent Police, Trading Standards officers and the Folkestone and Hythe Licensing Team
- Immigration offences were found and referred to the relevant authorities
- One premises was forced to shut due to being operated by a worker with no right to work in the UK
- A referral was made to Kent Fire and Rescue regarding a shop being used as a dwelling
- 11 pouches of hand rolling tobacco were seized
- Further information discovered concerning links to anti-social behaviour in the area
Clive Phillips, Operations Manager for KCC Trading Standards, said: “We will continue to work with our enforcement partners in clamping down on the sale of illicit tobacco.
“Illegal tobacco brings organised crime into our communities while making smoking more affordable for those attempting to quit and making it more accessible to young people. Shops selling illegal tobacco can be reported anonymously through 0300 999 6 999 or by visiting www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk .”