Alcohol and shisha tobacco have been seized from two independent stores in Southwark, London, during a series of raids by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), working in partnership with Southwark council trading standards.
Officers found 500 litres wine, 200 litres of spirits and 3.5kgs of shisha tobacco. The revenue loss on the haul is around £5,000.
Seven officers from HMRC and Southwark Council Trading Standards took part in the series of raids on Friday January 31. No arrests have currently been made. Investigations are ongoing.
The operation was part of an ongoing initiative to reduce crime by HMRC and six London borough councils – Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark.
Peter Millroy, assistant director, criminal investigation, HMRC, said: “HMRC officers work closely with trading standards across London disrupting the gangs that deal in illicit tobacco. We have seized illegal goods and those involved may face criminal prosecution. This illegal trade has a devastating effect on legitimate retailers, who have to compete with black market traders.
“We appeal to local people and businesses to join us in the fight against crime and encourage anyone with information on illegally imported goods, or tax evasion and fraud, to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
Councillor Richard Livingstone, cabinet member for community safety, for Southwark Council, said: “Our work with HMRC shows our continued commitment to drive out the illicit trade in goods in Southwark. While many may be aware of the issues around illicit cigarettes, hand rolling tobacco and alcohol, the health risks around shisha are still misunderstood by many.
“Most shisha is untested and so potentially poses serious health risks. The sales evade tobacco duty and evidence indicates that the proceeds from the trade are linked to criminal activity.
“This operation will continue by carrying out further visits and enforcement action being taken against anyone selling illegal products, which may include financial recovery action under The Proceeds of Crime Act.”