A North East shop has been closed after being found to have repeatedly sold counterfeit and illicit cigarettes.

Berushka on Hartington Road has been closed for three months after Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (SBC) secured a closure order at Teesside Magistrate’s Court on Friday (July 14).

The court heard that test purchases were carried out by the council’s Trading Standards team, where it was found cigarettes could be bought for £5, well below the average cost.

The business operator was ordered by the Court to pay the Council £130 towards costs.

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The packets did not have an identification number, were not in plain standardised packaging as required by law, while some did not include required health warnings.

Councillor Norma Stephenson, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Access, Communities and Community Safety, said: “The closure order is a great result, and I would like to thank all of the Trading Standards officers who have been involved in this case, as well as officers from Cleveland Police.

"It once again shows that we take a zero-tolerance approach when it comes to the sale of illicit and counterfeit cigarettes.

“Illicit tobacco sales are often linked to low level and high-level organised crime and often go hand in hand with things like drug and alcohol offences, child exploitation and money laundering.

“It also undermines the efforts made to help people stop smoking, which is of course a massive issue up and down the country.”

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A Cleveland Police spokesperson said: “Cleveland Police will continue to work with our local authority partners to support their on-going work to tackle the sale of illicit or counterfeit products.

“This result demonstrates that anyone found taking part in such sales can expect to be dealt with robustly.”

This operation was carried out as part of Operation Cece, run in partnership with the National Trading Standards and HMRC to help tackle illicit tobacco sales.

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Chair of National Trading Standards, Lord Michael Bichard, stressed the importance of cracking down illegal tobacco sales.

He said: “The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law.

“Having removed 21 million illegal cigarettes, 5,800kg of hand rolling tobacco and almost 175kg of shisha products from sale, the National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC continues to successfully disrupt this illicit trade.”