Huge quantity of tobacco seized in raids

A huge amount of illegal cigarettes, tobacco and disposable vapes with a retail value around £322,000 were seized from a residential property in Walsall and a shop in Sandwell yesterday as part of a crackdown on the illicit tobacco trade in the Black Country.

Walsall Trading Standards in partnership with West Midlands police and a specialist search dog team, searched the property in the early hours after obtaining a warrant. An associated shop was visited by Sandwell Trading Standards a few hours later.  

This activity took place under Operation CeCe, which is a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC to tackle illegal tobacco. The property and shop were visited by the Trading Standards teams and the police after receiving intelligence that illegal tobacco was being supplied and sold.

The seizures from the property included 176,060 illegal cigarettes, 98.9 kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco and 782 illegal disposable vapes. Many of the disposable vapes seized contained 9000 puffs when the legal limit is approximately 600. They are also very attractive to children due to their colourful appearance and fruity flavours.

Sniffer dog Maggie, a highly trained cash dog assisted the team and found £42,800 cash. The police also seized a large number of Tramadol prescription only painkillers from the property.

Several sophisticated concealments were found at the shop in Sandwell containing approximately 140,000 illegal cigarettes, 4000 illegal disposable vapes and 20kg of hand rolling tobacco.

Tobacco bought on the illegal market is more likely to be the result of organised criminal activity with links to human trafficking, drugs and even terrorism. This brings crime into the Black Country and exploits vulnerable people. Many traders are prepared to sell to children and get them hooked on smoking which is unacceptable and dangerous.

Trading Standards have adopted a strong approach to these matters and will use every enforcement technique at their disposal to disrupt this type of activity. Further investigations in the borough continue to clamp down on such illegal products. Lord Michael Bichard, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:

“The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law. Having removed 21 million illegal cigarettes, 5,800kg of hand rolling tobacco and almost 175kg of shisha products from sale, the National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC continues to successfully disrupt this illicit trade.”


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