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Illegal tobacco goes up in smoke

Press release   •   Jun 02, 2014 15:30 BST

A trio of black Labradors have proven they really are man’s best friend by helping uncover illicit cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol with a street value of approximately £18,000 in raids across the borough.

Rochdale Borough Council, in partnership with the Trading Standards Institute (TSI), visited seven premises in Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale last week. Joining them were three detection dogs, which sniffed out 43,000 cigarettes, 15kg of tobacco and 63 bottles of illicit alcohol.

The dogs – Ozzie, Murphy and Bertie – took part in the raids and helped officers to discover stashed product in false panels within serving counters and behind kickboards in display stands. These hard-working hounds were treated to plenty of rest and lots of treats following their successful sniffing.

Cabinet Member Jacqui Beswick, said “Those involved in dealing in illegal tobacco may be encouraging people, including children to smoke by providing a cheap source. The detection dogs can find tobacco and cigarettes even if hidden in the most unlikely places. Offenders need to know that they will face consequences if they choose to deal in these illegal products.”

The raids were conducted as a result of information provided by the public and included visits in Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale. The council’s Trading Standards Team seized both counterfeit and non-duty paid products - which cannot be legally sold in the UK- as part of Operation Henry.

The operation, which runs from April through September 2014, cracks down on the supply of illicit tobacco across nine regions in England.  Each region receives eight days of dog detection provided by Wagtail UK, funded by the Department of Health. The operation, managed by TSI, allows trading standards officers to identify illicit tobacco 'hot spots' by using combined intelligence.

Leon Livermore, chief executive of TSI, said: "This partnership is one more example of how trading standards works with the private and public sector to protect consumers and support legal business practices. Through this partnership, trading standards has a unique opportunity to share information and develop intelligence with the aim of taking illicit tobacco off the streets."

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