An operation to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco and alcohol across the London Borough of Merton uncovered more than 1,000 cigarettes, over 5 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco and nearly 60 litres of alcohol, all believed to be illicit and seized.
Officers using detection dogs from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), with support from Merton Trading Standards and the police licensing section, visited 13 retail premises and self-storage units on Tuesday 20 March and Thursday 22 March 2018.
The visits, as part of HMRC’s Tobacco Taskforce activity, led to suspected illegal tobacco and alcohol products being seized from three premises.
Merton Council’s Assistant Director of Public Protection, John Hill, said: “This week has seen a co-ordinated clampdown across Merton on those retailers who are putting public health seriously at risk by selling fake products which are not what they are purporting to be. With often a far more dangerously high tar content than the genuine item, such fake tobacco and cigarettes are often filled materials such as excrement and dead flies and contain a very low level of genuine tobacco content. This kind of activity is not only immoral, it is dangerous and illegal and we will continue to work closely with the public and our partners to stamp it out.”
A spokesman for the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said:
“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.”
Anyone with information regarding tobacco fraud is encouraged to report it via the website http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/reportingfraud/online.htm or call the Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.