cigarettes seized in Burnham area 'may help organised crime'
cigarettes seized in Burnham-On-Sea and others parts of Somerset
as part of an investigation into the illicit trade of tobacco
may be helping to fund organised crime, it has been claimed.
team of investigators say they have found "widespread"
trade in illicit tobacco during a two-day visit to Burnham-On-Sea
and other parts of Somerset on behalf of the tobacco industry.
Scotland Yard Detective Chief Inspector Will O'Reilly led the
operation - and he and a team of test purchasers were able to
buy cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco that were available on
the black market.
total, the team were able to buy 12 separate packs of illicit
cigarettes two cartons of cigarettes and a pouch of roll-your-own
tobacco across the Wells constituency. Four of those items were
bought in Shepton Mallet, the rest in Burnham-On-Sea.
O'Reilly said there were three types of illicit cigarettes. The
first are 'diverted products' sold only in foreign countries at
a cheaper price and then smuggled into the UK to be sold, while
the second are counterfeit ersions of familiar brands. The last
group, known as 'illicit whites', are cigarettes manufactured
for the sole purpose of being smuggled into the UK and sold illegally
but buyers have no idea what is in them. Tests have revealed traces
of arsenic, rat droppings, human faeces, dead flies and more.
cheapest illicit whites found in the area were a pack of Jim's
on sale for £4 a pack.
tobacco we bought in the shops appeared to be contraband
an industry which costs the UK over £2 billion a year. Cigarettes
like this are often trafficked in bulk and are flooded into countries
by organised crime groups who see cigarettes as an easier and
more risk-free way to make money, instead of guns and drugs. The
money raised is then plunged back into other criminal activities."
warned smokers to be on the lookout for cheap tobacco which could
be putting lives at risk. "The problem with illicit tobacco
is that it's not regulated in any way," said Mr O'Reilly.
"Illegally bought cigarettes have been known to contain anything
from rat droppings and dead flies to sawdust. They also don't
contain safety features which can help to protect smokers from
house fires, and illicit cigarettes have been linked to house
fires which have caused deaths in other parts of the country."
Cllr David Hall, the Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council
who oversees trading standards, said: "All tobacco, legal
and illegal, is harmful to health. The sale of contraband and
counterfeit tobacco encourages criminal activity, damages the
local economy and poses an additional threat to our children because
it is sold at pocket money prices by criminals who are not interested
in asking for proof of age."
trading standards team and HMRC are determined to crack down on
the sale and supply of contraband and counterfeit tobacco in Devon
and Somerset, and we will be joint test purchasing operations
in the near future. Previous operations have led to some notable
seizures and formal legal action against suppliers. This organisation
should provide us the intelligence they have gathered so we can
deal with it appropriately."