A large quantity of counterfeit and illicit cigarettes and tobacco were seized from a Widnes shop on Thursday in a joint operation between Halton Borough Council Trading Standards and Widnes Local Policing Unit.

A warrant executed  at the town centre shop where around 11,000 cigarettes and 3kg of hand rolling tobacco were seized, along with c.£1,000 in cash and three mobile phones.

The operation resulted in three men being arrested for questioning with regards to offences under the Trades Mark Act 1994, which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

A spokesperson from Halton Trading Standards confirmed: “This case is the subject of an ongoing investigation.  The targeted operation was a result of excellent partnership work with officers from Widnes Local Policing Unit and it highlights how agencies with common goals can work together to achieve results.  In this case to remove a significant amount of counterfeit and illicit tobacco from the market place, whilst disrupting the illegal gains obtained by criminals.

“We are keen for Halton residents to understand the serious safety implications involved when buying cheap counterfeit cigarettes.  Genuine cigarettes are designed to self-extinguish when left unpuffed, generally referred to as reduced ignition propensity cigarettes.  Whereas counterfeit cigarettes, and even some cheap imports, will continue to burn with a higher propensity to cause a house fire resulting in fatalities.  Essentially if cigarettes or tobacco are not sold in the standardised green packaging then the likelihood is they are counterfeit and residents should be wary.”

Detective Inspector Ian Whiley, of Widnes Local Policing Unit, said: “Not only does the sale of counterfeit and illicit tobacco products harm legitimate businesses, it is also dangerous. Those who buy such products don’t know what is in them and what the money they have paid will be used for.

“We are committed to tackling organised crime in all its forms. Those involved in the supply of counterfeit and illicit tobacco products certainly fall within that category. We work alongside partner agencies in the fight against counterfeit and illicit tobacco products and are delighted with the results of our latest joint operation with Halton Borough Council’s Trading Standards officers.

“The potentially dangerous counterfeit and illicit tobacco products that we have seized are no longer destined for members of our community.”

Cllr Dave Cargill, the Council’s portfolio holder for Community Safety, added: “We have a duty to protect the health of the residents of Halton and so it is important that Trading Standards Officers actively pursue those involved in the sale of counterfeit and illicit cigarettes and tobacco.  Many of those involved in the sale of counterfeit/illicit cigarettes will quite happily sell to children.  Therefore, I would urge residents to speak up if they know or suspect someone is involved in selling counterfeit goods, all it takes is a brief anonymous telephone call.”

If you have any information relating to the sale of illicit cigarettes tobacco or alcohol then you can report it anonymously on the Halton Trading Standards Hotline for Alcohol and Tobacco on  0151 511 8787.   This is a reporting voicemail facility only and any information provided can be left anonymously, however, please provide enough information to identify those involved and if you want feedback, your contact details too.

Remember all other trading standards matters can be reported in the usual manner via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133