Sniffer dogs find hundreds of packets of illegal cigarettes in East Lancashire (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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Sniffer dogs find hundreds of packets of illegal cigarettes in East Lancashire
2:00pm Saturday 16th February 2013 in News
TWO specially-trained sniffer dogs have found hundreds of packets of illegal cigarettes in 16 raids in Blackburn and Burnley in the past two weeks.
The black labradors - Ozzie and Murphy - were brought up from North Wales by trading standards officers to smell out the smuggled and counterfeit tobacco.
The pair, working together, found more than 300 packs of contraband cigarettes, tobacco, blunts and cigar rolls at 14 retail premises in Burnley.
The raids were organised by Lancashire county council and HM Revenue and Customs.
Three-year-old Ozzie was the lead hound in two raids of fancy goods/grocery shops in Blackburn where more than 250 packets of illegal cigarettes and five kilos of smuggled loose tobacco were found.
All the items in both operations were seized and investigations into the finds are continuing. The raids were the first of their kind in East Lancashire and the dogs are on stand-by to return.
The maximum penalties for these offences are unlimited fines or 5 years imprisonment.
Blackburn with Darwen trading standards chief coun Jan Virmani said: "These animals are invaluable in helping my officers in the fight against illicit tobacco in the borough.
“We can call on them any time, so I’d encourage shopkeepers who are considering supplying any form of illegal tobacco to think again".
The two animals have been involved in tobacco investigations nationwide for the past 12 months and belong to a private company called Wagtail UK Ltd based in North Wales who train dogs for specialist investigations to support law enforcement authorities.
The Burnley raids also netted 76 bottles of non-duty-paid alcohol.
County deputy leader Albert Atkinson, who represents Ribble Valley North-East, said: ""The highly trained tobacco dogs leave no hiding places for those who trade in illegal tobacco..
“The low price and easy availability of illegal tobacco encourages people to keep smoking, and children and young people are often targeted by unscrupulous traders.
“The dogs help to find tobacco which unscrupulous traders often conceal in unusual places such as hidden compartments and seemingly-empty product boxes.”
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