Local MP Mark Spencer has been presented with evidence of the widespread illegal tobacco trade in Sherwood and has committed to stamp it out.
The illegal tobacco was purchased from a mix of nine locations, including convenience stores and off licences across Sherwood during February and March. The evidence gathered can be used to secure convictions with penalties of up to a 7 year custodial sentence.
The evidence obtained by Japan Tobacco International (JTI) through a series of test purchases was presented to Mr Spencer this week. All of the tobacco collected was Non-UK Duty Paid (NUKDP) which can include products which are counterfeit versions of genuine tobacco brands, illicit whites (which are tobacco products manufactured specifically to be smuggled) brought into the UK and sold on illegally – in short, it is any product which has avoided paying UK duties.
The problem of illegal tobacco is serious, and widespread: HMRC’s mid-point estimates show that, in 2013/14, £2.1 billion in tax revenue was lost because of tobacco smuggling and, according to HMRC, “The sale of smuggled cigarettes is unregulated and those products are often sold to children and young people.”
Speaking after seeing the evidence for himself, Mr Spencer said, ''You wouldn't have though that this kind of illegal trading was so extensive in Sherwood but I've seen evidence today and I'm committed to helping and pushing the Government to help stamp it out. Not only does it affect our health - we can't be sure what is actually in these products as they are not checked or tested, and are often sold to children too - but it also costs the taxpayer money because the buyers don't pay tax on the products. That means that through these crimes, the rest of us lose out on the funding for services and support we need for in other areas.''
Mark Yexley from JTI said ''The impact of the illicit trade in tobacco on society is far reaching and members of the public, retailers, suppliers and the Government all have a role to play to combat the issue. Criminals who deal in illegal tobacco will sell to all-comers, including children. JTI fully supports any efforts to rid our streets of illegal tobacco and stop criminals infiltrating our communities.
“Law enforcement agencies across the world have identified links between tobacco smuggling and globalised crime. The man or woman in the street who sells illegal cigarettes could be the front for a criminal supply chain that can span the globe. The £5 spent by a smoker on illegal cigarettes in Sherwood today can potentially fund major global criminals and terrorist organisations tomorrow.”
Anybody with information about illegal tobacco in Sherwood should contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111 or atwww.crimestoppers-uk.org