A SHOP in County Durham has been ordered to close for three months having been linked to the sale of illegal cigarettes and tobacco.

The Lifestyle Express store in Blackhall Colliery was closed by a court following an application by Durham County Council’s community protection team.

During an investigation by trading standards officers, illegal tobacco products were found to be being sold from the Middle Street shop.

Warrants were also executed in Blackhall and at addresses in Middlesbrough on 8 September and a substantial quantity of tobacco products and cash were seized.

Two men arrested during that operation were interviewed in connection with alleged offences of conspiring to supply counterfeit tobacco products and money laundering, and were released under investigation.

Peterlee magistrates heard evidence from the council following which they concluded that the criminal activity would continue if the application was not granted.

The store must remain closed until December 16.

Owen Cleugh, the council’s public protection manager, said: “We are very pleased with the magistrates’ decision.

“Selling illegal tobacco often goes hand-in-hand with other forms of criminality, makes it easier for children to smoke and affects those retailers who operate within the law.

“Our officers are committed to reducing the harm of the illegal tobacco trade and I would urge members of the public to continue reporting it to us so that we can take the appropriate action.”

Anybody with information about illegal tobacco can provide it anonymously by calling 0300 999 0000 or by logging on to www.keep-it-out.co.uk.

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