Around 11,000 illegal cigarettes and 1.6 kilos of counterfeit tobacco have been seized from a Midlands convenience store following a raid by HM Revenue & Customs.
The raid took place last week in West Bromwich. The items were concealed behind a sliding panel under the counter of the shop.
The cigarettes were described by HMRC as “cheap whites” brands not legally on sale. The seized cigarettes included Jin Ling and Palace brands. The counterfeit tobacco was a phony Golden Virginia.
A spokeswoman for HMRC said the West Midlands was a tobacco smuggling hot spot, and the find was significant for the size of the premises: “In the current climate, this type of activity creates additional pressures for legitimate traders,” she added.
HMRC said that no arrests had been made, but that investigations were ongoing pending potential prosecutions.
Manufacturers and retailers argue that the ban on the display of tobacco products, due to come into force for large supermarkets next October and for smaller stores in 2013, will create a surge in illicit trade. Hiding products from view will make it easier for those wishing to flout the law.
Both groups are lobbying the government to reverse the ban. A decision on whether it will review the move should be announced by health secretary Andrew Lansley before Christmas. It is speculated that the bans could be deferred until 2012 and 2014.