ILLEGAL tobacco was found in Uttoxeter as part of a major operation which saw 20,000 cigarettes seized using money taken back from criminals.
Staffordshire County Council's trading standards officers visited 13 shops across Uttoxeter, Burton and Stafford where they seized 19,850 cigarettes and 7.75kg of tobacco which would retail at £14,000 if legitimate.
It was supported by Staffordshire Police, East Staffordshire Borough Council and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HRMC). Illicit tobacco was found at seven premises and eight arrests were made. Tobacco detection dog support was provided through regional and national funding.
Nearly £35,000 from proceeds of crime is being used to tackle the problem of counterfeit and untaxed tobacco and alcohol.
Trading standards leader Gill Heath said: "The sale of illicit tobacco is a crime which damages communities and harms legitimate businesses and we will take action against traders who knowingly sell it.
"This operation demonstrates that we take this issue seriously. We target our resources where we know the sale of illegal and sometimes dangerous tobacco and alcohol is going on.
"Now we can reinvest money recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act from criminal activity in Staffordshire. This is good news for Staffordshire as we're helping to keep people safe at no extra cost."
The authority works with (HMRC) and other organisations to crack down on sellers of illegal tobacco and alcohol and encourage people to steer clear of potentially harmful counterfeit products.
The proceeds of crime funding will also be used in community projects which will help to raise awareness of the issue.
Anyone with information about the sale of counterfeit tobacco and cigarettes is asked to call Fight the Fakes hotline on 01785 330356 or www.staffordshire.gov.uk/fakes or Crimestoppers anonymously at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.uk or 0800 555 111.