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Stockton shops closed down after thousands of illicit cigarettes seized

28 March 2024
A grid image showing the closure order notices outside Zirak Mini Market and Guarantee Barber shops

A grid image showing the closure order notices outside Zirak Mini Market and Guarantee Barber shops

Two Stockton town centre shops have been closed down after more than 30,000 illegal cigarettes were seized.

Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council secured the three-month closures of Zirak Mini Market and Guarantee Barber at Teesside Magistrates' Court on Wednesday (March 27).

The Court heard how the Council acted after numerous complaints of illicit tobacco being sold at the Zirak Mini Market shop, including to children.

Illicit cigarettes were also sold to a Trading Standards officer for £5, well below the usual price of around £12.

And a search by Trading Standards alongside Cleveland Police found a hole in the wall of the Zirak Mini Market store leading directly to the Guarantee Barber store.

This led to a discovery of 32,000 illegal cigarettes, plus more than 10kg of illegal hand-rolling tobacco and 22 e-cigarettes which were over the permitted capacity of liquid nicotine.

Carolyn Nice, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council's Director of Adults, Health and Wellbeing, said: "We take the sale of illicit cigarettes very seriously and these closure orders are an excellent result for our Trading Standards team, who have worked tirelessly alongside our partners at Cleveland Police to bring these cases forward.

"It's worrying for the community that these illegal cigarettes are being sold as it's difficult to know what is in them, but we take a zero tolerance approach.

"I'd encourage residents to continue to report concerns about sales of illicit products to us so we can take the necessary action."

Chief Inspector Dan Heron, from Stockton Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: "This is another great result that once again demonstrates our commitment to disrupting crime in the town centre.

"While we are already making a positive difference, we will continue working with our partners to ensure the town centre is an even safer place for residents, business owners and shoppers visiting the area.

"I want to take this opportunity to encourage members of the public to keep providing the intelligence and report crime, knowing that we will keep acting on it."

This work was carried out as part of Operation Cece, which is run in partnership with the National Trading Standards and HMRC to help tackle the sales of illicit tobacco.

Lord Michael Bichard, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:"The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law.

"Having removed 27 million illegal cigarettes, 7,500kg of hand rolling tobacco and almost 175kg of shisha products from sale, the National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC continues to successfully disrupt this illicit trade."

Anyone with information on the supply of illicit tobacco from any business or residential premises across Stockton-on-Tees Borough can contact the Council's Trading Standards team on 01642 526560 or email trading.standards@stockton.gov.uk.

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