Stark warning to Facebook sellers as Benson man is arrested and car seized

Expect to get caught. That’s the warning to anyone in Oxfordshire thinking of selling fake and smuggled tobacco via social media sites, such as Facebook.

The warning follows the arrest of a Benson man last week during a multi-agency operation by Oxfordshire County Council Trading Standards (Jody Kerman pictured), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Thames Valley Police, which resulted in the seizure of over 12 kilograms of suspected counterfeit hand-rolling tobacco and 3,500 fake cigarettes. The man also saw his vehicle, which was being used to transport contraband tobacco, seized by HMRC and is being investigated by Trading Standards for alleged breaches of criminal law.

Recently published figures show that tobacco fraud cost the UK nearly £2 billion a year with one-in-three pouches of hand-rolling tobacco consumed coming from an illicit source. Whilst treating smoking-related illnesses costs the NHS over £2 billion annually.

Councillor Judith Heathcoat, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for safety, said:

“We all know the risks associated with smoking and the best decision any smoker can make for their health is to stop. Peddling counterfeit tobacco at pocket-money prices is not only a serious crime it can undermine a person’s efforts to quit whilst its ready availability helps recruit the next generation of smokers. Fake cigarettes also fail to extinguish themselves when left to burn, presenting a real danger to safety in the home.”

Andrew Burgoyne from HMRC said: “We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to report it. HMRC will continue to work with Trading Standards and the Police to disrupt the criminal trade in illicit tobacco.”

Those involved in the illegal tobacco trade in Oxfordshire can expect the following:

  • To be arrested
  • To have your home and car searched
  • To be interviewed under caution
  • To have mobile phones, computers, laptops and iPads seized and not returned if the devices have been used in the commission of the offence
  • To have your car seized if it has been used in the commission of the offence
  • To be prosecuted through the Criminal Courts and, if found guilty, face a sentence of an unlimited fine and up to 10 years in prison
  • To have proceeds of crime, such as cash or property, seized and forfeited

Anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco should contact 0300 999 6 999 or report it anonymously via the website www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk