Breaking Gillingham KENT MEDWAY

Eleven arrests were made, and more than 120,000 cigarettes seized, during an operation targeting newsagents selling illicit tobacco in Chatham and Gillingham


The enforcement action was taken across Friday 26 and Saturday 27 February 2021, with Kent Police officers working in partnership with HM Revenue and Customs, Medway Council, the Home Office and Kent Fire and Rescue Service.


In total, 123,040 cigarettes were seized along with an additional 19.8kg of rolling tobacco.


Nine men, aged between 19 and 42, and two teenage boys were also arrested on suspicion of conspiring to commit tax evasion. They have since been released pending further enquiries, which will be carried out jointly by Kent Police and HMRC.


Among the more noteworthy finds was a hide containing several thousand untaxed cigarettes, which was found in the yard of Payless Convenience Store in Gillingham High Street.


The shop has since received a full closure order, following a successful application made by Kent Police officers at Maidstone Magistrates’ Court on Monday 1 March.


The Kany Shop in Chatham High Street, and Supermart Xpress in Batchelor Street, Chatham, were also made the subject of temporary closures after several thousand cigarettes were reportedly seized from both premises.  


In addition to the seizures, Kovan in Luton Road, Chatham, also received a temporary closure order due to previous incidents at the premises.


Inspector Steve Bassett, from Kent Police’s Medway Community Safety Unit, said: ‘The sale of illicit cigarettes is well-organised and undercuts legitimate, law-abiding businesses operating in the same area. It also attracts associated violence and antisocial behaviour.


‘The results achieved from these particular warrants demonstrate the effective relationships we have with partner agencies in central and local government.


‘We will continue to work with these agencies to ensure our combined powers are used to take the most robust action which, ultimately, will reduce crime and help to keep our communities safe.’


Richard Mayer, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: ‘The sale of illegal tobacco will not be tolerated by us or our partner agencies. Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £1.9 billion a year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.

‘We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to report it online or call the Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.’