Hampshire Now - your County Council magazine

Thousands of pounds worth of illegal tobacco and counterfeit goods seized in joint Hampshire Trading Standards and HMRC operation

Thursday, 19 December 2013

A total of nearly £40,000 of illegal tobacco and counterfeit goods have been seized by Hampshire County Council Trading Standards and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in a joint operation.

A sniffer dog detected nearly 4kg of hand rolling tobacco and cigarettes and another 1kg was voluntarily surrendered. Officers from Trading Standard's Fair Trading Team also confiscated hundreds of fake designer handbags, clothing, DVDs and watches which would have had a street value of more than £36,000.

The illegal tobacco had a street value of around £1,580 and amounted to £970 in lost tax revenue.

The joint Hampshire County Council and HMRC operation took place on Sunday 15 December at Blackbushe Market on the Hampshire/Surrey border. Blackbushe is one of the largest outdoor Sunday markets in the country.

Previous intelligence and a voluntary handover of illegal tobacco led to one seller being formally warned and banned from the market earlier in the year, but further information and increasing seizures of illegal tobacco across the UK led to this joint exercise.

Officers reported that the tobacco was found concealed in vehicles associated with the stalls and were discovered with the aid of a tobacco detector dog. Sniffer dog Phoebe and her handler Stuart Phillips were supplied to the operation by Dog Detection specialists B.W.Y Canine.

Councillor Roy Perry, Leader of Hampshire County Council and Executive Member for Policy and Resources, said: "The sale of illegal tobacco is a serious criminal offence. These criminal activities severely damage the local economy and legitimate traders by gaining a competitive advantage at their expense, and taking trade away from genuine hard-working businesses. As it becomes harder for under 18s to buy from legitimate sources, illegal tobacco trading creates a cheap source that fuels smoking by young people, giving them habits that put their health at risk into adulthood."

Bob Gaiger, HMRC spokesman for Hampshire and Surrey, said: "HMRC works with other law enforcement agencies to target anyone we suspect is selling or smuggling illicit tobacco. We relentlessly pursue any individuals or crime gangs believed to be involved in this type of criminal activity. It is not a victimless crime and undermines the efforts of legitimate traders."

Illegal tobacco can be;

  • Counterfeits of well known brands,
  • 'Illicit whites' - often made for the black market, non-duty paid tobacco genuine brands

HMRC's latest estimates indicate the illicit cigarette market has more than halved since the introduction of the UK's anti-illicit strategy in 2000, dropping from 21% to 9% in 2012/13 and the hand-rolling tobacco illicit market has reduced from 61% to 36%. The combined associated revenue losses for cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco are currently estimated to be around £2billion per year.

The following seizures of counterfeit consumer goods were made from five stalls;

  • 637 fake UGG boots seized (approx. street value £12,700)
  • 242 fake items of designer clothing seized (approx. street value £2,400)
  • 89 fake designer label bags seized (approx. street value £1,700)
  • 28 fake designer label purses seized (approx. street value £140)
  • 36 fake ICE watches seized (approx street value £720)
  • 3738 fake music CDs / feature films on DVD (approx street value £18,700)

Anyone with information about the sale of illegal tobacco is urged to call the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000, or report to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. The sale of fake goods should be reported to Trading Standards by calling the Citizen Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06

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