Around £200,000 of illicit tobacco seized in Devon and Somerset raids

Authorities hope to break the illegal tobacco trade across Devon.

The tobacco was seized at various locations in Devon and Somerset - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

An estimated £200,000 worth of illegal tobacco was seized in raids in Devon and Somerset last week.

Officers from the Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service, supported by Avon & Somerset Police, Devon and Cornwall Police, and HM Revenue and Customs carried out the operation on Friday (July 22).

The seizure is one of the largest of its kind by the service.

Using specialist detection dogs officers executed five warrants. They raided two stores, a residential address and a storage container in Taunton, two business addresses of each in Exeter and Yeovil, and a business and residential premises in Tiverton. 

Two commercial vehicles were also searched. 

Meanwhile, a coordinated raid took place on a linked business premises in Northampton, carried out by Northamptonshire Trading Standards.

The recent operations mean the service, which is commissioned by Devon and Somerset County Councils, Plymouth City Council and Torbay Council, has now seized illicit tobacco worth more than £310,000 across the service area during 2021 and 2022.

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Fakir Mohamed Osman, head of the Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service, said: "Our Trading Standards team is playing its part in tackling this trade which has a links to organised crime. 

"The trade in Illicit cigarettes takes business away from legitimate retailers and undermines public health efforts to reduce smoking rates.

"Using the dogs helps searches to be completed more quickly so more premises can be checked.

"We will continue to act on intelligence to target unscrupulous sellers making money from this illegal activity."

Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, Somerset County Council lead executive member for communities, said: "The seizure demonstrates the excellent work of the Trading Standards team. 

"Working alongside the police, HMRC, and other agencies, we will continue to fight to protect residents and businesses from this damaging trade which is linked to serious and organised crime."

Investigations into those premises found selling the items are ongoing.

Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can report anonymously online to Trading Standards at www.swillegaltobacco.info.