More than 7,000 illicit white cigarettes manufactured for the smuggling market have been seized in a HM Revenue and Customs raid on five Lincoln city centre premises on Tuesday, January 15.
The joint operation between HMRC, Lincolnshire Trading Standards and Lincolnshire Police, discovered that three out of the five premises were found to have quantities of the illegal cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco.
The other two premises had illegal foreign-labelled medicines and issues with out of date food.
They were all on either High Street, Newark Road or Portland Street.
Some of the items had been concealed in specially adapted compartments under the counter but with the help of a tobacco-detection dog they were found.
Others were found hidden in carrier bags.
Clare Merrills, spokesperson for HMRC, said: “Low cost tobacco and alcohol products can often seem very attractive to local people, lured into purchasing them at what seem like bargain prices.
"However, the truth is these goods have been smuggled and these sales are unlicensed and unregulated.
"Those involved are not concerned if they are selling to children and underage young people and the illicit trade has a devastating impact on legitimate retailers and the local community."
Among the cigarette brands were Jin Ling, L+M and Master. It is estimated the lost duty is around £2,400.
The goods have been smuggled and the sales are unlicensed and unregulated.
They are usually sold illegally in residential areas, pubs and clubs and some small independent retail shops.
Emma Milligan, senior trading standards officer in Lincoln, said: "Illegally-imported cigarettes and alcohol costs the UK taxpayer more than £3bn every year, but this isn’t just about lost revenue.
"Our investigations can often reveal fake booze and fags that have the potential to harm or even kill.
"That’s why our work is so vital and we will never hesitate to take action against these criminals.”