SNIFFER dog Boo is the toast of teams fighting the trade in illegal tobacco after nosing out a huge haul of contraband.

The crime-fighting canine was part of a multi-agency team that swooped on the European Mini Market on Middlesbrough's Parliament Road.

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston today pledged to continue the fight to stamp out a trade rooted in organised crime and targeting children.

Middlesbrough Trading Standards, Environmental Health officers and Cleveland Police executed a warrant in relation to illicit tobacco on the flat above the premises as part of an intelligence-led operation. 

The Northern Echo: The cigarettes hidden in the staircaseThe cigarettes hidden in the staircase

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Boo set to work and quickly uncovered nearly 24,000 illicit cigarettes and 900g hand rolling tobacco, some of which was counterfeit, in a purpose-built hide in the staircase of the flat.

Following the raid on Tuesday, November 23, Teesside Magistrates last week (Thursday, December 2) imposed a three-month closure order on European Mini Market owned by Omar Usman Akram.

The flat - also subject to the same order - was leased by Mr Akram, 55, from landlord Mohammed Anwar.

Middlesbrough Council said the raid reinforces the message that illegal tobacco sales will not be tolerated in Middlesbrough, with many of the products involved in the trade likely to be unsafe as do not have the safety strip which prevent lit cigarettes from burning when not being used, which have been the cause of many house fires.

The Northern Echo: BooBoo

Judith Hedgley, Middlesbrough Council's Head of Public Protection, said: "We will continue to gather intelligence and target illicit tobacco sellers to stop this crime.

"The action we have taken protects our communities from the sale of illicit tobacco and the association with organised crime groups.

"Middlesbrough has one of the highest levels of health inequalities in the country which is fuelled by the illicit tobacco trade which is the main source of tobacco to children.

"We also want to protect the legitimate businesses in the town."

The Northern Echo: The counterfeit cigarettes foundThe counterfeit cigarettes found

Mr Preston - also the Council's Executive member for Adult Social Care and Public Health - said: "This raid sends a clear message to illegal tobacco dealers that that there's no hiding place for them here.

"It's not a victimless crime - it's a bane on communities which targets children and has clear links to organised crime and trafficking.

"We will stamp it out."

Anyone with information on illicit cigarette sales should contact the reporting hotline on 01642 728223, message via the Middlesbrough Trading Standards Facebook Page or email

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