Thousands of cigarettes, believed to be fake or illegal, were discovered in a Bolton shop basement – in a hidden storage area operated by an electronic bolt.
Sniffer dogs helped to uncover the haul in the operation carried out by Bolton Council trading standards officers and Greater Manchester Police.
They visited four premises in Bolton and a total of 9,700 cigarettes and 850 grams of illegal tobacco were recovered from two of the shops. If sold legitimately the cigarettes would be valued at £4365.
The premises were targeted as part of an intelligence-led operation to tackle illicit tobacco sales.
An investigation is now underway and the council will now be working with the police to prepare a case for prosecution.
Bolton Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Cllr Derek Burrows, said: “Buying or trading in illegal tobacco is a serious issue.
“One of these shopkeepers had gone to great lengths to hide the illegal stock but thanks to our experience, joint working with the police and highly trained sniffer dogs, it was uncovered.
“The sale of illegal tobacco is a major concern and as it is unregulated, the product can be even more dangerous and can get into the hands of young people much more easily.
“I would encourage residents to stop and think about where cheap tobacco comes from and report any illegal sales.”
For more information or to report illegal sales contact the trading standards team on email@example.com.