A factory churning out hundreds of thousands of pounds of fake branded tobacco has been successfully closed thanks to a raid led by council trading standards officers (TSOs).
In late August, six TSOs, supported by police and a brand enforcement officer from Imperial Tobacco, led an operation that raided a counterfeit hand-rolling tobacco-manufacturing site in Croydon. They found approximately 4,600 50g packets of fake Golden Virginia Hand Rolling Tobacco, with an approximate street value of £85,000, packed and ready for delivery.
The illegal factory was fully equipped to make large quantities of fake tobacco. The officers found instructions and a recipe guide, equipment to steam and mix the raw tobacco leaf, heavy equipment to remove the leaf from the stalk, to shred it and to pack and seal it. Significant quantities of raw, and part-processed, tobacco leaf, aromas and additives, security labels, empty packet sleeves and outers were also found.
During July, the criminal gang responsible produced more than 13,000 packets with a street value in the region of £250,000. It is estimated there was sufficient material on site to make a further £250,000-worth of fakes.
The first time such a large-scale organised criminal manufacturing plant has been found in Croydon, it is the biggest seizure of its kind made by the trading standards team.
Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
“This is a truly marvellous result for our trading standards officers, who, with the police, were able to coordinate and carry out a raid that has seriously dented what was obviously a highly organised criminal enterprise.
“These counterfeit packs of tobacco were, on the face of it, very high quality. Anyone who bought them would not necessarily have realised anything was amiss until they smoked the tobacco, when the poor quality would have immediately become obvious.”
Consumer complaints had been reported in early August when packs of the fake tobacco were found being sold from a small independent supermarket in Kent. Investigations are ongoing.
Anyone who has purchased 50g packs of Golden Virginia Hand Rolling Tobacco that they suspect may be counterfeit can report it to Citizens Advice on 03454 040506 or directly to Imperial Tobacco via email@example.com