Multi agency operation targets illegal tobacco and alcohol in Calderdale

Friday 21 February

Operation Maltese, was executed on Monday 17th February 2020. The multi agency operation involved West Yorkshire Trading Standards along with West Yorkshire Police, British Gas Revenue Protection, Calderdale Licensing and tobacco detection dogs from Wagtail UK. A total of 5 premises were visited across Calderdale in which illegal practices were taking place.


The operation resulted in a seizure of over 9500 cigarettes and 34.6kg of hand rolling tobacco. If genuine, the value of the cigarettes seized would be over £4800 and the hand rolling tobacco more than £17,000 bringing the total value of the goods seized to be over £22,000.


Officers from Calderdale council licensing department seized a large quantity of alcohol from a business whose licence had been revoked in 2018. The alcohol was concealed in cupboards behind the counter and in the storage area. Receipts were found for recent purchases of the alcohol from a local cash & carry.


Operation Maltese was part of a wider plan to crack down on criminality in Calderdale.  The operation targeted hot spot areas and businesses identified from intelligence and complaints passed to West Yorkshire Trading Standards by members of the public.


The inspections were part of The Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health Programme that is funded by the five Public Health authorities in West Yorkshire. This is helping people to stop tobacco use for good by educating the public and by investigating traders who supply cheap and illicit tobacco. The programme utilises marketing campaigns and multi-agency enforcement to tackle the problems of the illicit trade.


To date the programme has taken more than 5 million illegal cigarettes and over 1 tonne of illegal hand rolling tobacco off the streets. With more inspections planned in West Yorkshire over the coming weeks these figures are likely to increase.


Illegal cigarettes and tobacco are usually sold at a fraction of the price in a range of locations such as pubs, clubs, shops, private houses and even by street hawkers.  Illegal tobacco undermines the age and price restrictions placed on tobacco and also encourages people to continue smoking. It is also linked to organised crime and contributes to an underground economy worth billions of pounds. Victims of human trafficking are often being forced to sell these illegal products in order to pay off debts or fearing harm to themselves or their families.


Councillor Steve Sweeney, Member of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards said “All tobacco – both legal and illegal – kills half of all long term smokers. We know that most smokers want to give up smoking but their quit attempts are really undermined if somebody offers them a cheap supply of tobacco. It’s also really worrying that children are being targeted by unscrupulous dealers. I would encourage the public to continue reporting this type of activity to the Illegal Tobacco Hotline on 0300 999 0000.”