Three people have been arrested following a joint operation between North East Lincolnshire Councils’ Trading Standards team, Humberside Police Community team and B.W.Y. Canine Ltd specialist search dogs.
A search was carried out in the East Marsh and Freeman Street area of Grimsby on the morning of 5 May 2022.
The operation executed search warrants at two business premises and a number of domestic properties, all of which were believed to be involved in the supply and storage of illicit tobacco, and money laundering of the proceeds of that crime.
Three people were arrested on suspicion of involvement in money laundering offences, following the discovery by search dog “Maggie” of a large quantity of cash expected to be in excess of £20,000 and illegal tobacco at a house on the East Marsh.
Several thousands of pounds worth of illicit tobacco products and illegal disposable vaping devices were seized, alongside the cash. Enquiries are ongoing with a view to prosecute where evidence allows.
Since the start of Operation CeCe in January 2021, the council’s Trading Standards Team has seized more than 845,000 illegal cigarettes (42,264 packs) and 227.70 kg of tobacco (4554 pouches), with a legitimate value over £600,000 and a street value of over £260,000.
The operation is part funded by HMRC as part of the ongoing national anti-illicit tobacco drive, under the umbrella of Operation CeCe.
Neil Clark, strategic lead for regulation and enforcement, said:
“Operation CeCe seeks to protect local communities from the harm that the illegal tobacco trade brings. Beyond the significant effects of tobacco on people’s health, the illicit tobacco trade is often part of other criminal activity including drug smuggling, people-trafficking and illegal alcohol and DVD production. The intended sale price of seized cigarettes is often less than half the cost of legal tobacco. This not only undermines work to reduce the number of people who smoke but also impacts legitimate businesses.
“This operation marks the first collaboration between National Trading Standards and HMRC, and I am delighted that the first fifteen months have been hugely successful in removing a significant amount of illegal tobacco products off our streets and disrupting this illicit trade.”
Simon York, Director of Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:
“Operation CeCe shows our determination to tackle the menace of illicit tobacco. This is a trade that costs the UK taxpayer around £2.3 billion a year, undermining our vital public services and bankrolling a host of other crimes that harm communities, including guns, drugs and human trafficking.
“Those involved readily undercut legitimate businesses and don’t care who they sell to, including children. HMRC and Trading Standards are determined to stamp out the illicit tobacco trade, as these results clearly show.”