Six thousand packets of cigarettes and rolling tobacco and £4,000 have been seized and eight shops forced to close during a week-long enforcement operation in Margate, Ramsgate and Folkestone.
Kent County Council Trading Standards officers, with the support of Kent Police and immigrations teams, targeted illicit tobacco sellers in the intelligence-led operation.
A total of 21 premises were visited with eight closed – seven in Thanet – due to issues of staff working illegally or without leave to stay in the UK.
Premises across Thanet were targeted on the first day of the operation, (Friday, March 19) and despite action being taken, more goods were seized when shops were revisited the following Monday and Tuesday.
On Friday, March 19 six premises attended simultaneously by Trading Standards, Kent Police and immigration officers in Ramsgate and Margate resulted in approximately 5,000 packets of cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco being seized.
Three shops were forced to close due to being operated by illegal workers and a referral was made to Kent Fire and Rescue Service due to an unsafe premises.
Further significant intelligence found a link to members of organised crime. Approximately £2,000 was seized by Kent Police
On Monday, March 22 four premises visited, three of which were open
Another 613 packets of cigarettes and 89 pouches of hand rolling tobacco were seized and two shops were forced to close due to being operated by workers without leave to work.
Police seized approximately £1,500 in cash from the shops and associated persons.
The following day five premises were visited, four of which were open and a further 650 packets of cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco were seized.
Two premises were forced to shut and about £500 was seized by Kent Police
A Covid-19 prohibition notice was issued to a tattoo parlour found to be operating.
On Thursday, March 25 six visits were carried out to premises in Folkestone with 11 pouches of tobacco seized, immigration offences reported and one business forced to shut due to being operated by a worker with no right to work in the UK
Clive Phillips, Operations Manager for KCC Trading Standards, said: “We will continue to work with our enforcement partners in clamping down on the sale of illicit tobacco.
“Illegal tobacco brings organised crime into our communities while making smoking more affordable for those attempting to quit and making it more accessible to young people.
“Shops selling illegal tobacco can be reported anonymously through 0300 999 6 999 or by visiting www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk .”