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Store and flat closed down over illegal tobacco sales

Crime and safety

Thursday, 07 March 2024

A Middlesbrough town centre store and flat have been closed down over the sale of illegal tobacco.

A joint operation by Middlesbrough Trading Standards and HMRC targeted the Vegas store on Abingdon Road, and the residential flat above it.

The investigation followed numerous complaints to Trading Standards about sales and storage of illicit tobacco at both premises, with efforts taken to hide stock from detection by enforcement agencies.

Teesside Magistrates Court heard that in November last year HMRC officers seized 57,000 illicit cigarettes and 16.95kg of hand rolling tobacco from the shop and flat and associated residential addresses and vehicles.

Further test purchases of tobacco have since been obtained by Trading Standards in recent months.

This week (Tuesday, March 5) Magistrates granted three-month closure orders against both the retail premises and the flat after being satisfied that there was criminal behaviour at the premises and that the orders were necessary to prevent it.

The store owner was also ordered to pay costs of £1,105.79.

This investigation and enforcement work by Trading Standards was part of a national trading standards initiative codenamed Operation Cece which is playing a significant role in disrupting the illicit trade and helping to take illegal tobacco off the streets.

Judith Hedgley, Head of Public Protection at Middlesbrough Council, said: “Illicit tobacco brings health harms and crime into our communities through its supply links with organised crime groups.

“The Trading Standards team will continue to work closely with our enforcement partners to do everything possible to disrupt this evil trade.”

Middlesbrough Mayor Chris Cooke said: “I’m delighted that the courts continue to back our campaign to stamp out this cynical and dangerous trade which is all too often linked to organised crime.

“We will continue to use all means at our disposal to protect our law-abiding residents and legitimate businesses, and make Middlesbrough a safe and thriving place for everyone.”

To report illegal tobacco supply from any business or residential premises in Middlesbrough, call the Trading Standards hotline on telephone 01642 728223 or by email.