A STORE which sold illicit tobacco and stashed thousands of dodgy cigarettes in its ceiling has been shut down. 

Vilem Grocery, in Middlesbrough’s Crescent Road, was ordered to shut by Teesside Magistrates Court on Tuesday following a raid earlier this month. 

Trading standards teams, Cleveland Police and a tobacco detection dog helped the seizure 10,800 illicit cigarettes and more than 6lbs of hand rolling tobacco. 

The products were found concealed in a ceiling hide.

The Northern Echo:

Many did not display the correct labelling including health warnings – and many of them were counterfeit.

The three month closure order was handed down on Tuesday morning with a paper copy pinned up on the shop.

A criminal investigation is continuing for now. 

Judith Hedgley, from Middlesbrough Council’s public protection service, said the seizure showed the increasingly sophisticated methods being used by those in the illicit tobacco trade.

The Northern Echo:

She added: “Officers from the service will continue to seek out those supplying illicit tobacco and we will use all legal powers available to us – including the increased use of closure orders – to stamp out this despicable trade.”

Meanwhile, Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said illicit tobacco wasn’t a “victimless crime”.

“It’s linked to organised crime, with lethal consequences for all involved,” he added.

“Not only does it bring crime into our communities, it’s also a key reason for our young people taking up smoking.

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“We need to stamp that out – and this closure order sends out a clear warning that we’re coming after those who think they can make a quick buck by putting other people’s lives at risk.”

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