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Fraud and prosecutions, Health, Trading standards

Squalid illegal tobacco factory exposed

Two men have been jailed after running an illegal tobacco factory from a squalid flat in Brixton.

Lambeth Council Trading Standards officers, working with police and Imperial Tobacco, discovered the makeshift counterfeiting operation following a raid in September 2010. Machinery and 350Kg of tobacco was discovered at the property in Penford Street.

The haul, which had an estimated street value in excess of £80,000, included processed tobacco, counterfeit Golden Virginia and Amber Leaf wrappers, European tax stamps and security holograms. Illegal weighing scales and other processing paraphernalia was also found at the flat.

Ray Bouch, Lambeth Council Senior Trading Standards Officer, said that the haul was destined to be peddled in pubs, clubs, work places, car boot sales and even on street corners. The tobacco had a declared a weight of 50g, but when a representative sample was tested, all pouches of hand rolling tobacco weighed less than that advertised.

Mr Bouch said: “Conditions inside the flat were appalling, with mice and cockroaches contaminating the processed product.

“People who buy tobacco from people pedalling it in pubs or clubs may think they are getting a bargain, but they should be aware it’s likely to have been prepared in unhygienic conditions and will almost certainly not be the brand it says it is on the packet. A lot of counterfeiting is also linked to serious organised crime that you could be helping to fund.”

Cllr Lorna Campbell, Cabinet Member for Environment on Lambeth Council, said: “Lambeth Trading Standards officers do vital work day in day out to help keep the public safe and I’m pleased at this result. Lambeth will do everything we can to disrupt the activities of those involved in illegal tobacco manufacture and supply, because there are no safeguards as counterfeit tobacco is unlicensed and unregulated.”

At Blackfriars Crown Court on 17 December 2010, Kai Yen Wang, 39, pleaded guilty to having possession, custody or control in the course of business counterfeit tobacco. He was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment.

Sun Long Wang, 43, pleaded guilty to having possession, custody or control in the course of business counterfeit tobacco and was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.

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