TM Eye’s Illicit Tobacco Team have disrupted a major organised criminal network engaged in the vast scale manufacturing and wholesale supply of fake tobacco pouches in the West Midlands area.
On Wednesday 30th January 2019, following a major covert operational deployment TM Eye detectives working in partnership with officers from the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) Disruption Team raided a residential house in the Birmingham area. A working ‘Fulfilment House’ was discovered manufacturing huge numbers of counterfeit tobacco pouches. Approximately 300 kilos of raw tobacco and hundreds of thousands of fake tobacco pouches were recovered. Thousands of ‘made up’ Amber Leaf and Golden Virginia fake pouches were found ready for sale in large laundry bags.
The occupant of the house had been arrested earlier having been seen supplying a large number of fake tobacco pouches to premises in the Kidderminster area. A search of his vehicle resulted in the recovery of further counterfeit pouches.
Following the arrest and the seizure at the fulfilment house a further search was carried out at a local garage. The garage was found to contain a further 130 kilos of raw tobacco, hundreds of thousands of fake tobacco pouches, outer sleeves and tax paid stamps together with thousands of ‘made up’ counterfeit pouches in laundry bags ready for sale. Two industrial sealing and production machines were also recovered.
The following day Thursday 31st January 2019, TM Eye served a criminal summons for Conspiracy to Supply and Manufacture Counterfeit Amber Leaf tobacco pouches on a Chinese national believed to be one of the principals involved in the criminal network. The details of two further suspects were obtained. The men will appear at Manchester Magistrates Court for commital to the Crown Court on 7th March 2019. A further defendant Ashley TURRELL from the Manchester area had previously failed to appear at court and is currently wanted on a no bail warrant.
The private criminal prosecution is being brought on behalf of TM Eye’s client Japanese Tobacco International (JTI).
TM Eye’s Director David McKelvey said,”This has been an outstanding success. The investigation into this major criminal network was commenced by TM Eye on behalf of JTI in August 2018. On 30 August 2018 we raided premises in Springfield Road, Sparkhill, Birmingham and took out an active ‘fulfilment house’ and over 300 kilos of raw tobacco and hundreds of thousands of counterfeit Amber Leaf and Golden Virginia pouches. Five people were arrested. As a result we commenced a prosecution against Ashley TURRELL.
In December 2018 TM Eye’s Illicit Tobacco Team supported by the Dedicated Surveillance Team carried out additional surveillance activity that resulted in a further ‘fulfilment house’ in York Road, Birmingham being raided by HM Revenue and Customs Officers. A local garage was also searched resulting in another huge haul of raw tobacco, fake pouches and ancillary material together with thousands of counterfeit pouches made up ready for sale in laundry bags.
A significant amount of intelligence and evidence resulted in a further deployment of the TM Eye Illicit Tobacco Team and TM Eye’s Surveillance Team last week. This resulted in further premises being identified and evidence gathered of a huge criminal conspiracy to manufacture and supply vast numbers of fake tobacco pouches across the UK. With the outstanding support from the West Midlands ROCU Disruption Team we were able to raid the new ‘fulfilment house’ and storage facilities leading to another massive haul of raw tobacco and fake pouches.
The identities of many of those suspected of being involved were gained and evidence has been submitted to our solicitors for consideration of adding them to the current case of Conspiracy to Manufacture and Supply Counterfeit Amber Leaf Tobacco pouches, due to be heard at Manchester Magistrates Court on 7th March 2019.
With the assistance of the ROCU Disruption Team we also served a criminal summons for the Conspiracy on a Chinese National Xiang Long Lin who will appear on 7th March 2019. A defendant from the Manchester area Ashley TURRELL is currently wanted on a no bail warrant.
I would like to thank the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit Disruption Team for their motivation, dedication, commitment and investigative ability in bringing this operational activity to a successful conclusion. Without their assistance the recent result would not have been possible.”