AROUND 200,000 counterfeit fags have been swooped from the streets of Glasgow after a major sniff-out by detection dog, Boo. 

Teams from Police Scotland, Glasgow City Council, HMRC and Trading Standards weighed in on the joint operation, which saw 14 raids take place across the city. 

Among the inspections, a total of 19.5 kilos of illicit tobacco was also seized from shops where “you wouldn’t expect to be sold the products”.

The illegal produce - now stored at a secure location in Glasgow - is thought to be worth roughly around £100,000 if sold on within the community.

Glasgow Times:

Neil Coltart, group manager for Trading Standards, said: “They were found by a combination of intelligence and previous experience. We also used a detection dog who helped us to sniff out where the tobacco was or where tobacco could have been.

“The majority of seizures that have taken place in the last couple of months haven’t been in the ordinary part of the business.

“They’re stored in false walls, undisclosed containers and roof spaces. We call these spaces cavities. This shows that the businesses involved know what they are doing – this is not somebody who has come across 1000 cigarettes for resale. 

“This is somebody who has intentionally stockpiled or gathered product to sell knowing that it is illegal.”

The teams conducted successful searches in Maryhill, Govanhill and Tollcross. 
They speculate the products are being shipped into Scotland via Eastern Europe - with packaging giving away the first clue. 

Glasgow Times:

Mr Coltart said: “Most of the branding on the packaging of the cigarettes is from Eastern Europe including Poland, Lithuania and Estonia.

“This is because cigarettes and tobacco is significantly cheaper in any event in these countries.”

Those who smuggled the products into the UK evaded roughly around £70,000 worth of tax. 

“The biggest seizure we have here is around 50,000 cigarettes”, said Mr Coltart.

“They will be turning around a 20 deck for about 20p in Belarus. It’s then being shipped over to Ireland and being sold for £6 or £7.

“If you can imagine the market, the tobacco is coming in, in bails where it’ll be sent to the UK and measured and put in a bag. The profit margin on illicit tobacco is significant – it is worth their while and seizure is inconvenient to them.”

Glasgow Times:

And even after the cigarettes and tobacco are seized, the teams are committed to keeping a close eye on the businesses caught with the illicit products.

Mr Coltart said: “We are not fooling ourselves into thinking that once we have taken 50,000 cigarettes off their business that they will then stop doing it. They are likely to start again and that is why we keep a close eye on all businesses.”

The teams admit that the raids would have been a lot more tricky without the help of Boo - who is a Lab cross German Wirehaired Pointer - and her handler. 

Boo is specially trained in sniffing out tobacco and joined all 14 inspections that were carried out between July and September.

Glasgow Times:

She is the only tobacco-trained detection dog in Glasgow. 

Mr Coltart said: “While some of the storage places can be found by individual officers there is no doubt that having a detection dog and a handler helps the investigation. 

Mr Coltart said: “While some of the storage places can be found by individual officers there is no doubt that having a detection dog and a handler helps the investigation. 

“At a recent raid, Boo even showed our team to a set of ladders that led to a cavity where there was a substantial amount ofillicit tobacco.”

Boo’s proud handler, who preferred not to be named due to safety concerns, told the Glasgow Times about how a normal inspection would take place.

Glasgow Times:

He said: “We start off normally behind a counter where there will be a small quantity of product held for quick and easy transaction.

“If we can establish that there is illicit product behind the counter then we will get the dog to sniff the rest of the shop – basements, lofts and anything else that is around. 

“We will cast Boo through the shop where her nose will be in the air until she picks up the tobacco scent and then she will source it and put her nose right on it and wait for her tennis ball to be flung as her treat.”

And, on occasions, Boo can even indicate when there has been transportation of tobacco in an inspected shop. 

Her Consumer Protection Dogs handler added: “In some instances, Boo will indicate and allow us to understand if we have missed a find by a day or two as the scent of tobacco will still be there. We will then make the note.”

The illicit tobacco market costs the UK economy around £2.3 billion every year. 

Glasgow Times:

Counterfeit cigarettes look almost identical to well-known UK brands but can be spotted easily as packaging usually contains a foreign health warning with no picture. 

A HMRC spokesperson said: "The trade in illicit cigarettes damages funding for essential public services and undermines legitimate traders including small, independent corner shops that serve local communities.

"The sale of illegal tobacco will not be tolerated by us or our partner agencies. Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2.3 billion a year. 

"This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders."