A convenience store in Worcester is taking an extra £2,000 a week following a dramatic series of illegal tobacco raids.

Trading standards officers and police swooped on three different shops in the city on February 25, seizing 100,000 individual cigarettes, several kilos of rolling tobacco and a quantity of shisha tobacco that did not have the required health warnings.

With the city’s black market supply chain disrupted, one store in the city centre reported increased turnover of around £2,000 over the seven days after the trading standards operation, Retail Express understands.

[pull_quote_center]The tobacco was hidden in secret compartments operated by discreet buttons[/pull_quote_center]

The store manager, who asked not to be identified, said: “It has made a difference. I’m a very happy manager.”

It lays bare the amount of cash illicit tobacco is taking out of responsible retailers’ tills and shows clearly why they need to report any illegal tobacco selling to customs.

Peter Holmes, the trading standards officer who led the operation in Worcester, told Retail Express: “Illegal tobacco sales can cause serious economic detriment to legitimate businesses. The sale of counterfeit and non-duty paid tobacco is a serious criminal offence that attracts substantial criminal penalties.”

He warned that despite the “extreme lengths” that had been taken to conceal illicit tobacco in these shops, trading standards would always be able to find hidden products by using sniffer dogs like the one used in these raids.

The tobacco seized in the operation, a combination of non-duty paid and counterfeit products, was concealed in a hidden pit and secret compartments operated by discreet buttons.

Three people were later arrested and have been bailed pending further enquiries.

In the same week 54,000 cigarettes and 9kg of hand-rolling tobacco were discovered in shops during a raid by trading standards Walthamstow, London.

*To report illegal tobacco activity call the customs hotline on 0800 595 000

THE LAW:

Six months in prison or a £5,000 fine – the maximum punishment for selling tobacco that does not comply with the UK labelling regulations

10 years in prison and an unlimited fine –  the maximum penalties for selling counterfeit goods