TM Eye has smashed an organised criminal network involved in the wholesale production and supply of counterfeit tobacco pouches. Detectives from TM Eye’s Illicit Tobacco Team working on behalf of Japanese Tobacco International (JTI) identified a residential house in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham.
West Midlands Police and TM Eye detectives searched the three-storey premises on Friday 31st August 2018. An estimated 300,000 – 500,000 fake tobacco pouches together with ancillary material were discovered, together with approximately 2 tons of raw tobacco stored in black liners. A room within the premises had been adapted for the production of the tobacco pouches using the raw tobacco. Every other room in the premises contained numerous laundry bags, each containing approximately 1,000 completed counterfeit pouches ready for sale. The value of each laundry bag has an estimated £20,000 lost revenue cost. TM Eye detectives believe that the stock held at the house was likely to be a weeks supply and that a delivery of the raw tobacco had just taken place.
Four Chinese nationals were discovered living in the house and were arrested for their involvement in the manufacture of the counterfeit tobacco pouches. Enquiries are in hand to establish whether they had been trafficked into the UK and to establish their legal status in the UK and whether they have entered the country legally or been trafficked into the UK by organised criminals and forced to work in poor conditions in this illicit factory. Another man from the Wigan area was also arrested by police in relation to fraud act offences. All the suspects have been bailed for further enquiries. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have taken over the investigation.
TM Eye Director David McKelvey said, ”This was an outstanding piece of work by our Illicit Tobacco Team working for JTI and resulted in the discovery and raid of a substantial counterfeit tobacco factory that was clearly involved in mass scale production and the wholesale supply of fake goods.
Illicit factories such as these not only damage the tobacco industry but also result in an increased risk to the consumer who purchase products made in poor conditions resulting in serious health issues. The raw tobacco used by the criminal gangs is often contaminated with dangerous chemicals and pollutants, including asbestos. The loss to the Government and HMRC by the activities of such criminal gangs is substantial. We estimate that this factory resulted in the loss of over GBP 7.5 million in revenue from just the material found at the house during the search. The actual loss is likely far higher and the criminal profits vast.
TM Eye is now regularly prosecuting those involved in the sale of illicit tobacco on behalf of JTI and will continue to robustly enforce the law through the use of private criminal prosecutions for anyone selling fake goods that impact on JTI brands”.
TM Eye has convicted over 400 criminals as a private prosecutor by use of private criminal prosecutions and has a 100% conviction rate. All those convicted have their convictions recorded on the Police National Computer and have their fingerprints, DNA and photographs taken by police for their indices.