Last week, Sheffield Trading Standards officers joined forces with police and colleagues in Greater Manchester and Scotland to execute warrants and carry out searches at premises used by a gang, which supplied and operated shops who sold counterfeit tobacco.
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Illicit prescription-only drugs, such as Viagra and steroids, and a cannabis container were also sniffed out by dogs during raids in Manchester.
A van driver, who was trying to evade police at a Rochdale self-storage site, was arrested and had the contents of his van and two storage containers confiscated. He had around £2.4million worth of counterfeit clothes in his possession.
Trademark offenses for selling counterfeit products can result in prison terms of up to 10 years.
This bust was staged after surveillance was undertaken by Sheffield’s Trading Standards team, following reports of suspicious activity from the public.
Councilor Alison Teal, Sheffield City Council’s Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “Monitoring and enforcement are a vital part of Sheffield’s tobacco control programme.
“Cheap and illicit tobacco undermines our efforts to help people quit smoking and makes it easier for children to obtain cigarettes at pocket money prices, as illegal cigarettes are often sold individually, so that they become addicted from an early age.
“We are committed to eliminating cheap and illicit tobacco from our communities, it causes immense harm and, as we have seen in the results of this operation, is often linked to other aspects of crime and activities organized criminals.
“We work together with city partners to address the broader issues and impacts of illegal tobacco on communities, such as drugs, money laundering and exploitation.
“Eliminating illegal tobacco from our communities will not only address these serious criminal impacts, but is key to supporting the continued and steady decline in smoking we have seen over the past five years in Sheffield.”
Those who suspect or have concerns about the sale of illicit tobacco products can contact Sheffield Trading Standards at [email protected]