SIX people were arrested yesterday in the first wave of a large-scale police crackdown on the trade of illegal tobacco.
Just after 10am, around 30 police officers, along with representatives from the UK Border Agency, and Trading Standards, targeted six separate addresses in St Leonards in a multi-agency attack.
Five were businesses in London Road: Ryan Mini Market, London Road Market, Azmar, Kicks Barbers, and Farzana, while the sixth address was a ground floor flat in Silchester Road.
During the operation, illegal cigarettes were seized, and at one address a haul with a market value of approximately £10,000 was discovered.
Sergeant Simon Yates, coordinating the operation, said: “I am pleased with how the operation has gone.
“This is just the first wave. I believe there are a further 20 to 30 addresses in Hastings that are involved, and I aim to hit every one.”
He said that as a result of this raid, further arrests may well follow at a later date.
Since 2009, there has been increased intelligence regarding the trade in smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes in Hastings, particularly involving independent retailers.
As a result, test purchases were carried out and the businesses targeted yesterday were identified as selling ‘under the counter’ cigarettes and tobacco.
Sgt Yates added: “The reason we are doing this is to disrupt criminality in any way we can.”
The majority of the tobacco seized originated from the Russian states, and was a combination of counterfeit cigarettes and those for which no tax had been paid.