Tens of thousands of illicit cigarettes and vapes found in loft space between Gateshead shops

northumbria police
It's believed the space between the two stores was being used to pass illicit products. Credit: Northumbria Police

Tens of thousands of illicit cigarettes and vapes have been seized after officers discovered a concealed loft space between two shops and a flat in Gateshead.

Police and Trading Standards officers executed a warrant on Rawling Road in Bensham on Wednesday 3 April.

Officers found 27,200 illicit cigarettes, 8.5kg of illicit hand-rolled tobacco as well as 63 illegal vapes. £350 in cash was also taken from one of the shop’s tills and a card reading machine.

It is believed the total value of the haul is between £15,000 and £20,000.

It's believed the space between the two stores was being used to pass illicit products.

The action was part of the ongoing Operation Vienna which was established several years ago and sees police work with local authorities to share intelligence in the aim of minimising crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour.

The warrants were carried out as part of Operation Vienna. Credit: Northumbria Police

Speaking about the operation, Inspector Gillian Menzies, of Northumbria Police, said: "The operation was launched so that we have a robust and effective plan in place to tackle criminality in Bensham and we’re pleased to see that it continues to uncover illicit items which should not be for sale in any premises.

"As the public can see, we are not stopping targeting these gangs even though we continue to find even more sophisticated concealments in shops.

"No one in any of our communities should have to tolerate criminality and as a Force we will do all we can to tackle it, acting on any information supplied to us to take the appropriate action.

"It is important to stress that our efforts in this area don’t end here and we will continue to work with our partners in the local authority and help to take harmful and illegal items out of circulation.

"Some people might not see buying counterfeit cigarettes or vapes as an issue, but the truth is that the proceeds from the sales of these products are often re-invested into much more serious and organised crime.

"By removing the profits from these groups, we take away the power and standing they have in the community."

Anneliese Hutchinson, Service Director for Service Director Climate Change, Compliance, Planning and Transport at Gateshead Council, added: "Removing this quantity of illegal tobacco and vape products from the streets is a great outcome for Gateshead and another example of the council and police working together to keep our communities safe.

"Illegal tobacco sales are very harmful as they can make smoking more accessible to children, they can also fund serious organised crime."

Members of the public report crime or serious activity to officers by using the ‘Report’ page on the Northumbria Police website.

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