Sniffer dog discovers illicit tobacco in March shop

Wagtail the sniffer dog
Wagtail the sniffer dog
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A sniffer dog used by Cambridgeshire County Council Community Protection Team has helped bring two traders to book after finding hidden illicit tobacco they were selling.

Some 13,120 cigarettes and 5,570g of hand rolling tobacco were found in a hidden compartment at the Europa shop in Broad Street, March, with a street value of £3557.50 following a joint operation involving Trading Standards, the Police and Wagtail

On 11 February this year a test purchase was made from the shop. The labelling on the pack of 20 Marlboro Gold cigarettes was from Lithuania and therefore did not comply with the UK laws.

An entry warrant was obtained and executed on the March 17 and the rest of the tobacco was found by the sniffer dog in a concealed space at the bottom of the staircase. This tobacco was also from Lithuania and also did not have the proper labelling as required by the Tobacco Products (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale)(Safety) Regulations 2002.

Even as the team served the warrant a customer was being sold 10 packets of illegal cigarettes, for £30.

The then shop owners and directors Laura Pazdagyte and Vytautas Vaitekunas pleaded guilty to selling the tobacco without the proper UK labels at Peterborough Magistrates on Wednesday. The labels inform smokers of health hazards of the cigarettes and are required by law.

Magistrates heard the cigarettes had been brought into the UK from Lithuania.

Pazdagyte admitted in a licensing hearing in June that she had brought the cigarettes into the country and had not declared them to customs officers and therefore paid no duty on them.

Pazdagyte 28 and Vaitekunas 30 of Boyces Road Wisbech were each sentenced to a 12 month community order, with 120 hours of unpaid work.

They each have to pay legal costs of £500 and an order was made for the destruction of the tobacco.

The couple told the court that they have since sold the business and had bought the tobacco as they were finding it hard to compete with other shops.

The operation is part of a wider drive by Cambridgeshire County Council Public Health and Community Protection Team to reduce smoking and support traders who follow the law.

Emma Butterfield, Trading Standards Officer for Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “We welcome the decision of the magistrates. The sale of illicit tobacco not only harms law abiding businesses but the health of our communities and takes money from tax payers. We will prosecute where we can and with the use of intelligence and practices, such as the use of sniffer dogs, we will find out those who break the law. We’d encourage anyone who has any knowledge of suspected involvement of selling illegal tobacco to report it to Cambridgeshire Trading Standards (0345 4040 506). Reports can be made anonymously.”