Customs raid local off licences and seize illegal cigarettes and alcohol

More than 14,000 cigarettes were seized, as well as nearly two tonnes of illicit alcohol.

The operation, which was led by HMRC and supported by Kent Trading Standards, took place on Monday 1 April 2019 and was assisted with the use of specially trained detector dogs trained to sniff out illegal tobacco.

Thanks to the sniffer dogs, at Camden Groceries in Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells, officers discovered a mixture of fake and non-duty paid tobacco products.

In total 8,260 illegal cigarettes were seized in the shop, along with 2.8kg of hand rolling tobacco.

In Tonbridge, more than 6,000 illegal cigarettes as well as 1.5kg of rolling tobacco was recovered from a shop in Railway Approach. A man there was also arrested in connection with immigration offences.

A man was also arrested in connection with immigration offences.

PC Jane Skinner of the West Kent Community Safety Unit said: “This was a joint intervention into an illegal trade, which we know is often linked to the activities of organised criminal groups.

“We are continuing to work very closely with our partners, in deterring and stamping out the illegal sale of tobacco. Businesses which flout the law should also expect a visit in the near future.”

Ben Moore, Assistant Director for Fraud Investigation at HMRC, added: “The sale of illegal tobacco and alcohol will not be tolerated by us or our partner agencies.

“Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2.5 billion a year, and the sale of illicit alcohol which costs the UK around £1.3 billion per year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.”

On April 10 the online version of this newspaper carried a brief story about an HMRC raid on shops in Tunbridge Wells as part of a clampdown on the sale of fake cigarettes and illegal alcohol. The article stated that one of the places raided was Grove hill Stores on Grove hill Road. This was incorrect. Grove hill Stores that has been trading successfully for 35 years, was not the subject of any raid and has never been the target of any raid. We apologise to the owner Mr Sanjay Masrani for the error and for not meeting our own expected high standards of accuracy.

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