A secret stash of smuggled cigarettes and tobacco was kept in a hole in the wall of a Wolverhampton store, and was sniffed out by specially-trained dogs, it has emerged.
Revenue and Customs investigators, following the promptings of the animal, removed casing to uncover the haul behind the counter at a Wolverhampton store.
They found the rest of the 31,820 cigarettes and 6.5 kilograms of rolling tobacco concealed in a bag under the counter of the Aibe Supermarket in Dudley Road, Blakenhall.
The brands included Jin Ling – specially made for illegal trade – MG, Gold Classic, Marlboro Gold, Golden Virginia and Amber Leaf.
Four customs officers, the search dog and its handler took part in the swoop on the store that was part of a blitz that also included visits to shops in West Bromwich which did not lead to prosecutions.
But Syrian-born shopkeeper Gemo Amar from the Aibe Supermarket – who lives in Glentworth Gardens, Dunstall – has been fined £3,500 with £87 costs by Wolverhampton magistrates after admitting allowing the store to be used for the sale of unmarked cigarettes and rolling tobacco following the February 8 raid. The haul would have cost taxpayers around £7,500 in lost duty. Revenue and Customs spokeswoman Jennie Kendall confirmed: “The dog indicted that there was a concealment. Officers removed the casing and found cigarettes hidden in a hole in the wall behind the counter.
“Others were found in a box on the floor behind the counter.”
She added: “We want to ensure that the products being sold by shopkeepers are legitimate and the proper duty is being paid on goods. Officers make routine visits and also act on intelligence.
Tobacco smuggling costs the British taxpayer an estimated £2.1 billion a year in lost revenue.
Adrian Farley, Revenue and Customs Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation, said: “Amar thought he could get away with selling illicit and counterfeit cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco to his customers and stealing from the taxpayer.
“He had no regard for them or legitimate retailers having to compete with the black market economy.
“It was pure greed.
“This illegal trade seriously undermines honest businesses and communities in Wolverhampton and the surrounding area.”
Mr Farley said that people were encouraged to report information relating to illegally imported goods or tax evasion and fraud to 0800 59 5000.