Five Stoke-on-Trent shops raided in illegal cigarettes and vapes operation

Raid Published: Wednesday, 10th July 2024

Five shops in Stoke-on-Trent were raided today (Wednesday, July 10) as part of a joint trading standards and police investigation into illegal cigarettes and vapes.

30 officers from Stoke-on Trent City Council’s and Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards teams, Staffordshire Police and the Home Office Immigration Enforcement Service entered all of these premises in a coordinated operation:

  • Market Place Store, Market Place, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 3AG
  • Waterloo Store, Waterloo Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 3EX
  • Vinos Mini Market, Waterloo Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 2EN
  • Grab and Go, Waterloo Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 3HB
  • International Supermarket, Waterloo Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 3HR

Several test purchases have taken place at each shop over the last few months that showed they were selling counterfeit cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco. Officers were also able to buy vapes with tanks over the maximum size and incorrect labels.

During today’s operation 25,000 cigarettes and 7.5 Kg of Hand Rolling Tobacco which have a street value of £8,000, retail value of £20,000 and evaded duty value of £14,000 were recovered, as well as 2,350 vapes, worth £30,000.

This new evidence will be used to issue four of the premises with a 48-hour closure notice. Four criminal investigations have begun and one person was arrested for immigration offences.

If a premise is closed for 48-hours, the local authority then has to go to court for a closure order. Local magistrates have the power to close premises for up to three months.

Councillor Amjid Wazir, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for city pride, enforcement and sustainability, said: “This was a successful joint operation and I’d like to thank everyone who was involved.

“It was carefully planned and followed months of work to gather evidence to get to this stage.

“Illegal tobacco and vape sales affect the trade of legitimate businesses in our city and put consumers in danger. It won’t be tolerated. When we have the evidence, we will always take action against businesses who sell illegal goods in Stoke-on-Trent.”

Chief Inspector Rob Peacock, from Staffordshire Police’s Stoke-on-Trent city command team, said: “Operations like this prove that by working closely with partner agencies we can effectively prevent the distribution of illegal products, such as cigarettes, tobacco and vapes.

“Today’s action sends out a clear message that this type of activity will not be tolerated here in Staffordshire. We will continue to carry out joint exercises like this to target and take action against those intent on causing harm to our communities through the illegal sale of such products.”

Victoria Wilson, cabinet member responsible for trading standards at Staffordshire County Council, said: “Our officers continue to tackle the sale of illegal and illicit goods and we were pleased to be able to support our colleagues in Stoke-on-Trent in this successful operation.

“The trade in illicit tobacco and vapes is closely linked to organised crime and is harmful to our health, particularly young people’s health. Removing these from the streets is a real result. Not only does the trade put money in criminals’ pockets but it also harms our local communities and legitimate businesses. We will do all we can to ensure that we support legitimate businesses and take strong action against anyone who sells these dangerous illegal products.”