Tobacco was found stashed in a secret drawer under a shop counter by a sniffer dog in an operation this week led by Aberdeen City Council’s trading standards team.
The haul, comprising illegal cigarettes and shisha tobacco, was found after Boo, the two-and-a-half year-old lab cross wire haired pointer, indicated to her handler there was tobacco at the location.
The operation was part of a campaign targeting sales of illegal tobacco where trading standards officers are checking shops to ensure they are complying with the laws surrounding the sales of tobacco.
Illegal tobacco can be sold from under the shop counter, but it is just as likely to be sold in workplaces, in pubs, in the street, from houses, or online. The sale of illegal tobacco is associated with organised criminals who make money from selling counterfeit and non-duty paid tobacco to fund other illegal activities.
Aberdeen City Council trading standards manager Graeme Paton said: “Those involved in the trade in illegal tobacco find weird and wonderful ways of hiding their stocks. This was just one more example to add to what we’ve found previously in Aberdeen and Boo did a fantastic job finding the tobacco which was hidden away in a secret drawer under the shop counter.
“People might think they are getting a bargain buying tobacco from under the counter in a shop or via social media, and that it does no harm. But they probably don’t realise the connections between illegal tobacco and organised crime and the proceeds are used to fund other illegal activities such as people smuggling and drug dealing.
“We’d ask people not to buy illegal tobacco and report sales of it to us in confidence so we can make a real difference to help keep more illegal tobacco off the streets - we need to keep the pressure up on those who continue to sell it.”
Boo, along with 8-month-old springer spaniel Rosie, worked with officers from Aberdeen City trading standards team and officers from Police Scotland and HMRC, on the operation.
The most common examples of what is defined as illegal tobacco are:
• Counterfeits of well-known brands. You might thing you’re getting the genuine article but what you get is an inferior fake;
• Cheap genuine tobacco smuggled into the UK with no-duty paid. These packages are often in foreign languages and do not have the health safety warnings that are required in the UK;
• ‘Cheap whites’ which are mass produced in one country and smuggled into another.
The find in Aberdeen is part of Operation CeCe, a nation-wide strategy devised by HMRC and trading standards to tackle the problem of illegal tobacco. Operation CeCe is coordinated by SCOTSS, the Society of Chief Officers in Trading Standards in Scotland which coordinates national projects undertaken by the 31 Scottish local authority trading standards services.
People can report illegal tobacco sales to trading standards in confidence on 01224 522433. More information is available at www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/illegaltobacco