Thousands of illegal cigarettes which were hidden behind panels in two shops were uncovered by specially-trained sniffer dogs.
The search dogs were taking part in an operation, led by Liverpool City Council’s Alcohol and Tobacco Unit, in the Picton area.
Shops were targeted as a result of information received from members of the public. At one newsagent 1.45kg of counterfeit hand rolling tobacco and 6,700 cigarettes – including a mixture of counterfeit and smuggled products – were seized.
A search dog indicated to officers an area in which confectionary was stored. Officers were able to slide out a wooden board which revealed an amount of cigarettes and tobacco. More cigarettes were discovered after the sniffer dog had indicated an area which looked like it formed part of the shop counter.
In another shop 5,660 cigarettes were discovered by a sniffer dog inside the top of a refrigerator, which the owner had hollowed out to create space for him to store his illicit products.
Legal action against the shop owners is being considered.
Councillor Steve Munby, cabinet member for Neighbourhood said: “Once again ATU officers have found illicit supplies of tobacco in local shops
“These products undermine the hard work and efforts put into place by public health services to reduce tobacco use and its damaging effects on the health of the residents of the city.
“We encourage anyone who has information about illicit supplies of tobacco to contact Liverpool Council and report it. As an authority we will continue carry out proactive enforcement actions against anyone supplying this type of product and will, when necessary, prosecute those responsible.”
Helen Casstles, Smokefree Coordinator, said: “I am very pleased that these cigarettes and tobacco have been seized and will not be sold to the local community. This is an illegal activity and one which encourages people to smoke as they are cheaper than legal products. This means that young people, in particular, are more likely to buy them.”