The sale of illicit tobacco in shops is being used as a “front door” excuse for people trafficking and modern slavery, according to Trading Standards.
The comments come after JTI’s global anti-illicit trade operations director Ian Monteith revealed he was aware of cases of shop workers being forced to sell counterfeit cigarettes.
Speaking at The Global Tobacco & Nicotine Forum last week, he said: “Some retailers, particularly in the UK are being forced by criminal gangs to sell their products because they are in fear.”
A report from the Centre for Social Justice, published last year detailed evidence of organised criminality where trade in illicit tobacco is being used in this way.
It includes a letter sent to Rachel Reeves MP for Leeds West from West Yorkshire Trading Standards.
It read: “More and more the team is finding evidence of organised criminality, where the ‘front door’ is illicit tobacco sales but behind that is a more sinister business of people trafficking and modern slavery.
“By example, we have an ongoing case which began with a significant seizure of cigarettes from an off license. Further investigations revealed that the premises had over 70 people registered as living there in two years, and we have uncovered serious organised people trafficking evidence to suggest individuals are being housed illegally, transported around the county to work in premises owned by those involved.
“This would not have been detected had it not been for the work of the Trading Standards tram tackling the tobacco trade.”
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