3 arrested after £10,000 illegal cigarette seizure

Officers seized 52,520 cigarettes and nearly 6kg of rolling tobacco Credit: Durham County Council

Three people were arrested and more than 50,000 suspect illegal cigarettes worth over £10,000 seized in raids in County Durham.

Officers from Durham County Council’s Consumer Protection Team and Durham Constabulary swooped on premises in the Willington and Sunnybrow areas on Tuesday May 10.

A total of 52,520 cigarettes and 5.7kg of hand rolling tobacco which were either fake or without appropriate health warnings were seized.

Police also uncovered an estimated £4,000 in cash, which was also confiscated.

Two men, one in his late 40s and one in his early 70s, and a woman in her late 60s were arrested on suspicion of the possession and supply of illicit tobacco and other offences.

Since April 2015, 463,840 cigarettes and 677 pouches of hand rolling tobacco have been seized by council officials.

Joanne Waller, the authority’s head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: "Yet again we have been successful in targeting sellers of illicit tobacco at more than one level of the supply chain, tackling both the end sellers and those who are profiting from the wider distribution of illegal tobacco and the suspected criminal activity linked to it.

"The message is clear to those still tempted to engage in the supply of illicit tobacco.

“Stop now or face the consequences of our rigorous enforcement actions.”Further investigations are underway to probe the extent of the alleged supply network in County Durham.

Anyone found guilty of supplying counterfeit tobacco could face up to ten years in jail, unlimited fines, and could have their assets seized.