Home Somerset rules Illegal tobacco seized in Taunton trading standards raids

Illegal tobacco seized in Taunton trading standards raids

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Trading Standards officers seized illegal tobacco in coordinated raids on two shops, a residential address and a storage container in Taunton.

As reported exclusively on countygazette.co.uk, the transport, which was part of the Friday midday (July 22) operation covering areas of Somerset and Devon, is estimated to be worth more than £200,000.

A witness saw police-backed trading standards officers rushing into a store in East Reach and another in East Gate.

Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, Somerset County Council’s Senior Executive Member for Communities, said: ‘The seizure demonstrates the excellent work of the Trading Standards team.

“Together with the police, HM Revenue and Customs and other agencies, we will continue to fight to protect residents and businesses from this damaging trade, which is linked to serious and organized crime.”

The raids were carried out by officers from the Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service and supported by Avon and Somerset Police, Devon and Cornwall Police and HM Revenue and Customs.

The seizure is one of the largest of its kind made by the service.

Using specialized detection dogs, officers executed five warrants.

As well as targeting premises in Taunton, they also hit two commercial addresses in Exeter and Yeovil and commercial and residential premises in Tiverton.

Two commercial vehicles were also searched, while a coordinated raid took place at business premises linked to Northampton by Northamptonshire Trading Standards.

Last week’s operation means the service, which is commissioned by Devon and Somerset County Councils, Plymouth City Council and Torbay Council, has now seized illicit tobacco worth more than £310,000 in the service area in 2021 and 2022.

Fakir Mohamed Osman, Head of Trading Standards for the Heart of the South West, said: “Our Trading Standards team is playing its part in combating this trade which has links to organized crime.

“The illicit cigarette trade distracts businesses from legitimate retailers and undermines public health efforts to reduce smoking rates.

“The use of dogs enables searches to be carried out more quickly so that more premises can be checked.

“We will continue to act on intelligence to target unscrupulous vendors who make money from this illegal activity.”

Investigations of the premises found selling the items are ongoing.

Anyone wishing to report the sale of illegal tobacco can anonymously report Trading Standards online at www.swillegaltobacco.info/