Yesterday (Monday, May 30), Lincoln Magistrates’ Court issued ‘closure orders’ on Bucharest, in West Street, and King Power, in Horncastle Road, following a request from Lincolnshire Trading Standards.
The orders mean the shops must immediately close for three months.
Bucharest and King Power were two of five shops in Boston recently targeted by Lincolnshire Trading Standards and Lincolnshire Police in a crackdown against the sale of illegal cigarettes and alcohol.
Tens of thousands of illicit cigarettes and vapes, plus thousands of pounds in cash, were seized in raids over the past two weeks.
Officers also found employees in the shops with no right to work in the UK. These were referred to Immigration Services.
In all five shops, the owners had taken extensive measures to hide their illegal goods, including false walls, false ceilings, false floors, hydraulic lifts, and electrically operated magnetic locks. In one case, chilli powder was even used around the products in an attempt to distract detection dogs. King Power, in Horncastle Road, was the location of a video which showed illegal cigarettes stashed behind a ceiling light.
Trading Standards are now pursuing orders against the other three premises.
The raids come just weeks after Lincolnshire Trading Standards launched Operation June – a campaign to tackle illicit tobacco sales in memory of June Buffham, who sadly died in a housefire caused by an illegal cigarette. Cigarettes found in the shops during these raids were a mix of counterfeit, unsafe, and non-duty paid.
Vapes seized during the raids were found to be far in excess of the legal nicotine strength and well above the permitted size. One such vape contained the same nicotine content as 450 standard king size cigarettes.
Andy Wright, principal trading standards officer, said: “I hope these two closure orders are the first of many. Trading Standards and the police have responded to public concerns of lawlessness, particularly in the West Street area of Boston. That lawlessness is in no small part due to the criminal activity found in these shops.
“Make no mistake, these are not shops who trade a few dodgy fags on the side. These shops function for the primary purpose of selling illegal cigarettes and vapes.
“We have been contacted by a number of legitimate businesses in the area who have found that they cannot compete on equal terms. It is unfortunate that in some cases they have been put out of business. We do what we can to provide a level playing field for legitimate business.”
Three months is the maximum length of time for a closure order.
“We hope to work with shop landlords during the closure period to ensure tenants do not continue to commit criminal offences when the shops are allowed to re-open,” Mr Wright added.
Sgt Ian Cotton, from Lincolnshire Police, said: “These cigarettes are often unsafe. The laundered profits contribute towards people trafficking and modern slavery. Good, honest people have been forced to close their business due to this activity and we will continue to work with our partners to combat the issue.”
Anyone with information on the sale of illegal cigarettes in Lincolnshire is asked to call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or report it at crimestoppers-uk.org