'Smuggling' sting sees five arrested
PUBLISHED: 09:30 21 July 2014
CRIMINAL gangs may be connected to the 'smuggling' of thousands of pounds of illicit goods into Weston.
About £20,000 worth of suspected counterfeit goods have been recovered following a major operation across the town, with numerous shops and homes raided.
Police believe the illicit smuggling trade may be funding other criminal activity.
The operation, carried out by Trading Standards, the police and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), uncovered tens of thousands of pounds of suspected counterfeit or illicit cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol.
A 31-year-old Weston woman has been arrested, as were four men, including two 37-year-olds from Weston and Worle.
Another Weston man, aged 34, and a 33-year-old Nottingham man were also arrested. All five were interviewed and have been bailed.
Mandy Bishop, assistant director of operations at North Somerset Council, said: “This illicit trade undermines legitimate retailers, who pay their taxes and abide by the rules and shouldn’t have to compete with individuals who sell untaxed and smuggled goods which have often been linked to organised criminal gangs.”
The smuggling crackdown was launched on July 7 and recovered 53,000 cigarettes and 5kgs of rolled tobacco worth an estimated £19,000. Alcohol samples were also taken away by HMRC for further analysis.
Officers raided six shops and four homes as part of the operation.
Inspector Sharon Bennett from Weston police station said: “The operation was extremely successful and demonstrates effective partnership working.
“In many cases, money from the sale of illegal or smuggled goods is used to fund other illegal activities.
“Goods smuggled into the country might not necessarily be of the required quality, standard or in some cases even the product or brand they claim to be.
“We will continue to work with our partners to tackle crime such as this, which has a detrimental effect on both our local economy and community.”