THOUSANDS of pounds worth of illegal cigarettes have been seized thanks to the detective work of a sniffer dog.
Wigan Council’s Trading Standards team called upon the help of black Labrador Ozzy to unearth illicit goods valued at around £7,500 when officers carried out raids at four premises in Wigan and Leigh.
The sharp-nosed hound played an instrumental role, leading officers to the concealed bounty which included a range of fake and illegal goods such as tobacco, cigarettes, alcohol and cigarette lighters.
A shop on Bradshawgate in Leigh was raided during the operation on November 20, while a man delivering fizzy drinks door to door around Warrington Road, Leigh, was also collared.
Two shops in Ince in Wigan were raided by officers too.
The haul netted 8,000 cigarettes and around 17kg of hand-rolling tobacco, much of it found to be fake. Officers also seized illegal Scotch whisky, ethnic tobacco products, unsafe electronic cigarettes and fake cigarette lighters.
Coun Kevin Anderson, cabinet champion for communities and the environment, said: “Whilst the urge to buy so-called bargains ‘under the counter’ may prove irresistible, people need to consider the bigger picture. Counterfeit tobacco products are even more harmful than the real thing, and the risk people take in buying and using substandard goods can be considerable.
“This kind of criminal activity undermines local communities as law abiding shops that pay their taxes simply cannot compete.”
Julie Middlehurst, Wigan Council’s Trading Standards manager, said: “Please don’t turn a blind eye to this issue.
“It isn’t a victimless crime. Children and young people could be getting hold of these products and potentially causing untold long term damage to their health.
“Working with our public health partners, we are determined to clamp down on those people who deal in duty free or counterfeit cigarettes.
“We have spoken to many young people aged 14-17 who smoke and they have admitted to buying cigarettes from illegitimate sources.
“We are grateful to those people who come forward with information because without their help, ridding our neighbourhoods of these illicit and dangerous goods would be all the more difficult.”
The sale of counterfeit goods is a serious criminal offence and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
Anyone who wishes to contact Trading Standards in confidence can ring 01942 827476 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also ring Crimestoppers 0800 555111.