TRADING Standards seized illegal tobacco estimated to be worth more than £200,000 in raids in Devon and Somerset on Friday, July 22.
The seizure is one of the largest of its kind by the service.
Using specialist detection dogs officers executed five warrants.
They raided two stores, a residential address and a storage container in Taunton, two business addresses in each of Exeter and Yeovil and a business and residential premises in Tiverton. Two commercial vehicles were also searched.
A co-ordinated raid took place on a linked business premises in Northampton by Northamptonshire Trading Standards.
The recent operations means that the service, which is commissioned by Devon and Somerset County Councils, Plymouth City Council and Torbay Council, has now seized illicit tobacco worth more than £310,000 across the service area during 2021 and 2022.
Fakir Mohamed Osman, Head of the Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service said: “Our Trading Standards team is playing its part in tackling this trade which has a links to organised crime. The trade in Illicit cigarettes takes business away from legitimate retailers and undermines public health efforts to reduce smoking rates.
“Using the dogs helps searches to be completed more quickly so more premises can be checked. We will continue to act on intelligence to target unscrupulous sellers making money from this illegal activity.”
Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Trading Standards, said: “The service uses detection dogs as we are finding that criminals are using increasingly elaborate methods to hide illegal tobacco.
“But regardless of where it is hidden the dogs have the ability to sniff out even small quantities of tobacco that are hidden from view.
“So, for retailers and members of the public who think they can get away with this illegal activity there really is nowhere to hide.
“And for those who think illegal tobacco is a victimless crime think again. We know that the availability of cheap, illegal tobacco at pocket money prices encourages children to start smoking.”
Investigations into those premises found selling the items are ongoing.
Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can report anonymously online to Trading Standards at: www.swillegaltobacco.info/ .