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Illegal tobacco operation shut down - again

Crime and safety

Tuesday, 26 March 2024
Teesside Magistrates' Court

An illegal tobacco peddling operation in central Middlesbrough has been shut down - for the second time in a month.

Trading Standards officers from Middlesbrough Council secured a three-month closure order against the Vegas convenience store on Abingdon Road on March 5.

The shop and a residential flat above it had been used for prolific sales of illicit tobacco.

The perpetrators then simply moved their black market operation to nearby Pshdar on Waterloo Road, but Trading Standards were ready for them and moved in to close the business down again.

And on Thursday (March 21) they secured a further three-month closure order against Pshdar at Teesside Magistrates’ Court .

The court heard how the illicit tobacco business involved multiple people, premises and vehicles, with evidence including seizures and test purchases from joint enforcement by Trading Standards and HMRC.

Those behind it simply switched premises after the initial closure in a bid to continue trading, before being quickly closed down for a second time.

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, Middlesbrough Council’s Head of Public Protection, said: “This result sends a message to the illicit tobacco sellers that Trading Standards are watching, they will track you down and bring you to justice.”

Middlesbrough Mayor Chris Cooke said: “This dangerous trade has clear links to organised crime, and we will do everything in our power stamp it out.

“It not only blights communities by driving up crime and anti-social behaviour, but puts people’s health at risk and damages legitimate businesses.

“It’s indefensible, and we will continue to work with our partners to identify those responsible and bring them to justice.”

Anyone with information on the supply of illicit tobacco from business or residential premises in Middlesbrough is urged to call the Trading Standards hotline on 01642 728223 or email EHTS@middlesbrough.gov.uk.