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One thing leads to another: how one crime is often a gateway to broader criminal behaviour

FCRO Subsection: 
Editorial Staff

More and more the The West Yorkshire Trading Standards Illegal Tobacco team is finding evidence of serious organised criminality where the “front door” is illicit tobacco sales but behind that is the more sinister business of people trafficking and modern slavery.

Operating for 4 years, and part funded by five local authority Public Health Teams, it has had some significant successes and has been awarded a Yorkshire and Humber award for going above and beyond the call of duty.

During the lifetime of the team’s operation it has:

Seized over 4.25 million cigarettes and 1.2 tonnes of Hand Rolling Tobacco
Prosecuted 35 offenders linked to the supplies
78 multi-agency operations
10 Premises Licence Reviews – resulting in full revocation of alcohol licence
8 Landlord evictions of problem traders where illegal activities were taking place
Engaged with front line workers to raise awareness of illegal tobacco
Number of referrals made to the modern slavery network to safeguard potential victims
Working with immigration to fine employers of illegal immigrants up to £20k
Working with HM Revenue and Customs to lay non duty offences for cigarettes and alcohol
Working with West Yorkshire Police to carry out searches of private accommodation and storage units and seize large quantities of cash as part of proceeds of crime
Working with partners to seize vehicles where illegal tobacco is being stored
Working with the councils Rogue Landlord Unit to identify benefit fraud for residential premises being used as a business

A number of victims in the supply chain have been referred as victims to the Modern Slavery Network for help and support.

It's easy to see a headline over seizure of illegal cigarettes in isolation and a win in itself but the offences that are both financed and facilitated by the trade are clearly far more serious than is readily obvious.