Shop assistant arrested after seizure of more than 600 packs of tobacco in Preston

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Hundreds of illegal packets of cigarettes have been seized from a shop in Preston - with the shop keeper also arrested on suspicion of being in the country illegally.

Lancashire County Council Trading Standards officers seized more than 600 packets of illicit tobacco from a shop in Ribbleton in a joint operation with Lancashire Police.

Just some of the seized tobacco

Just some of the seized tobacco

The seizure happened yesterday with the products taken from the shop's stockroom and a vehicle parked nearby.

The assistant present in the shop was unable to produce any ID and claimed to be homeless.

Police arrested him on suspicion of being in the country illegally and could face deportation.

Paul Noone, head of Lancashire County Council Trading Standards service, said: "The number of cases we are dealing with demonstrates the value of the illegal trade in tobacco, with some unscrupulous retailers clearly being reluctant to comply with the law on tobacco sales.

"The sale and manufacture of illegal tobacco has a serious impact on legitimate businesses, and our communities, and is something we're determined to tackle.

"It has a negative impact on people's health, with cheap illegal tobacco helping to keep smoking rates high, and being more affordable to children.

"Smoking remains the largest preventable cause of ill health and premature death in the UK.

"Our officers will continue to take robust enforcement action in relation to the sale of illegal tobacco in Lancashire, including seeking confiscation of any financial gain from offenders where possible."

It is the latest of a number of seizures and prosecutions by Trading Standards in recent months.

In a recent case in the east of the county, the offenders were the subject of a confiscation order to repay almost £100,000 of their ill-gotten gains.