Over one million illegal cigarettes were seized in a joint operation between Coventry Trading Standards, Coventry Police and Immigration yesterday (9 October).
The haul was discovered during a planned operation at an address in the Hillfields area of the city. Twelve made-to-measure wooden boxes full of illegal cigarettes were found on pallets next to hundreds of empty cardboard boxes that were ready to load with the illegal products.
Three vans were seized at the premises, two of which also contained illegal cigarettes. A male was arrested and was interviewed late yesterday evening.
Cllr Tariq Khan, Chair of Coventry City Council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee, said:
“All of the cigarettes found were foreign branded and failed to have the required health warnings in English. When our teams arrived it was clear from the size of the operation that this was a distribution point, with illegal cigarettes coming into Coventry in large quantities to be not only distributed locally but further afield.
He continued: “Selling and distributing illegal cigarettes is taken incredibly seriously in the city – the trade has links to wider criminal networks and presents a real danger to consumers. We are removing these cigarettes from the streets and the people that profit from this crime.”
The estimated tax evasion value on the amount of cigarettes is in the region of £350,000.
The beginning of the day also saw seizures of illegal tobacco products from four local retail shops, one being found in a hidden cupboard operated by electromagnets. Two of the shops had been abandoned by the workers at the time of the visits, one of which was later secured by Trading Standards.
A van parked near to one of the shops where seizures were made was also broken into and more illegal cigarettes were found under the seats.
The vast quantities of illegal tobacco seized have now been transferred and safely stored in a secure warehouse outside of the city.
Investigations are ongoing.