Alleged counterfeit cigarettes worth nearly £10k found in Derbyshire shop raid – Derbyshire Live

Alleged counterfeit cigarettes that could be worth ­nearly £10,000 were found during a Trading Standards and police raid on a Derbyshire shop.

An operation aimed at targeting the UK’s counterfeit cigarettes trade brought officers to a store selling bargain goods in a county town, close to the Nottinghamshire border.

The shop, which Derbyshire Live cannot name for legal reasons, was alleged to have been a front for selling counterfeit cigarettes smuggled in from eastern Europe.

In back rooms, stashed in elaborate hiding places, alleged fake cigarettes that could be worth ­nearly £10,000 were sniffed out by dogs.

Lead tobacco officer Ade Parkin announced the search to the shell-shocked shopkeeper before heading behind the counter and past a screen with four CCTV cameras.

Behind the shop lay mouldy, semi-derelict rooms, littered with rubbish and building materials, The Mirror reports in a Sunday People exclusive.

Detection dog Cooper scanned the space and within minutes began pawing eagerly at a pristine ceramic floor.

Prising up the recently-laid tiles, dog handler Stuart Phillips uncovered the outline of a metal cage buried inside a cavity and lined with thick plywood.

The compartment – three feet deep and controlled by a hydraulic mechanism – gave up its bounty after 20 minutes of hacking with crowbars and handsaws.

Stuart said: “I’ve seen about 20 identical hides in raids. The same person or group are making these and fitting them in shops all over the country.”

Inside, officers said there were almost 11,000 cigarettes, including fake Regal King Size, Benson & Hedges and Richmond, and 131 pouches of tobacco, such as counterfeit Golden Virginia and Amber Leaf, plus packets of illegal “slims” bearing Russian writing.

Packs of 20 are sold for £5, compared with the usual £12 to £13.

Alongside the cigarettes sat a tub of cloves and a glass of bleach – described as an alleged attempt to throw dog handler Stuart’s hounds off the scent.

Upstairs was a squalid flat where thin slabs of foam served as makeshift beds.

Electric sockets hung precariously from damp, flaking walls. Food scraps, takeaway cartons and empty vodka bottles littered the kitchen.

Ade explained: “Public perception is that selling illegal tobacco is a victimless crime, but with conditions like these it can be regarded as modern-day slavery. On one job we found a hidden room. Inside was a guy on a mattress taking orders from the shop through a speaker and pushing cigarettes out through a hole behind a skirting board.

“These shops easily take £1,200 a day. He was on £20 for his trouble.”

Some of the tobacco products which were found and taken away by Trading Standards
Some of the tobacco products which were found and taken away by Trading Standards
(Image: Sunday Mirror/Mark Radford)

Dog handler Stuart and his four-legged pals have uncovered three million cigarettes and £250,000 in cash this year alone.

Previous success has led him to receive death threats alongside police accolades – and prompted gangsters to put a £25,000 bounty on the head of his star performer, springer spaniel Scamp.

Stuart said: “Year on year, we’re finding more and more.

“Container loads enter the UK and they’re split up into vans which spread them all over the country.

“Gangs are resorting to increasingly sophisticated methods to try to hide things and they’re getting harder to detect – but the dogs always sniff them out eventually.”

Official figures say as much as a third – 3,500 tonnes – of hand-rolling tobacco and 2.5 billion cigarettes smoked in the UK in 2018-19 was illegal.

Trading Standards and HM Revenue and Customs have launched a nationwide crackdown called Operation CeCe to disrupt the illegal trade.

An HMRC spokesman said: “Cheap cigarettes often fund organised crime and other illegal activity that causes real harm, such as drugs, guns and human trafficking.”

Last week, raids in Durham supported by the National Crime Agency netted illicit cigarettes worth £100,000. Operations in Northamptonshire found 3,500 packets and £17,000’s worth was uncovered in Warwickshire.

Some reports suggest illegal ­cigarettes contain higher levels of dangerous toxins than the real thing.

But Deborah Arnott, of health ­charity ASH, said: “It’s a line still trotted out by the tobacco industry that counterfeit fags are more deadly.

“Whatever they smoke, smokers are inhaling over 90 toxic substances, ­causing 16 different types of cancer, heart disease and respiratory failure.

“The danger of fake cigarettes is not that they’re more likely to kill you, but because their lower prices make it harder to quit.”

  • Anyone with information about tobacco criminals can call the Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887

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