Officers seize biggest haul of illegal cigarettes worth £130k from hidden compartments in Bedford

It was the biggest haul of illegal cigarettes during the crackdown undertaken by officers across the borough Credit: Bedford Borough Council

Officers found thousands of illegal cigarettes - worth more than £130,000 - hidden in secret compartments within shops.

Nearly 20,000 cigarettes were seized last Wednesday (27 September) from two shops in Queens Park, Bedford, by police and trading standards officers.

They were hidden in "sophisticated" compartments within the shops, Bedford Borough Council said.

Tobacco-sniffing dogs worked alongside officers to uncover the stash.

A tobacco-sniffing dog working with officers Credit: Bedford Borough Council

This was the biggest haul in the crackdown between June and September.

Altogether, more than 23,000 illegal cigarettes were confiscated in the borough - with a staggering street value of £150,000.

The retailers are facing a range of consequences - including prosecution, having their alcohol licences removed, and HMRC fines of up to £10,000.

The names of these businesses cannot be shared until formal action has been successful, the council said.

Some of the illegal cigarettes that have been seized in Bedford Credit: Bedford Borough Council

Lord Michael Bichard, chair of National Trading Standards, said: "The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law.

“Having removed 27 million illegal cigarettes, 7,500kg of hand-rolling tobacco, and almost 175kg of shisha products from sale, the National Trading Standards initiative, in partnership with HM Revenue & Customs, continues to successfully disrupt this illicit trade."

Anyone with information about the sale of illegal tobacco in Bedford borough, is asked to report it to Bedford Borough Council or the Citizens Advice Bureau.

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