Police dog sniffed out 76,000 illegal cigarettes and £10,000 in cash hidden by trap door in a false wall

A West Yorkshire shop thought it had devised an ingenious way to sell illicit tobacco: a drainpipe “chute” that allowed illegal cigarettes to be sent straight to a drawer behind the serving counter from a secret room.

Some of the illegal cigarettes and tobacco worth £50,000 seized in a raid at Polski Sklep in Dewsbury

But the operation at Polski Sklep, in Broadway House on Foundry Street in Dewsbury, came to a halt when it was raided by police and trading standards officers using a specially-trained “tobacco dog”.

In the search on March 11, the dog sniffed out a trap door in a false wall.

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Behind it were hidden rooms containing almost 76,000 counterfeit and non-duty paid cigarettes worth £43,000, hundreds of tobacco pouches worth £7,000 as well as £10,000 in cash hidden in a secret compartment in a stairwell.

The cash was seized under the money laundering act.

Commenting on the scene a police officer said: “When the stock had been collated ready to transport to Trading Standards headquarters the shop looked more like the duty free lounge of an international airport terminal as opposed to a small convenience store in Dewsbury.”

Officers were alerted to the prospect of illegal sales and carried out a test purchase three days before the raid.

They said a packet of cigarettes normally priced £10 had been sold for less than half that price. They were later found to be counterfeit.

On testing the chute system officers said it worked by a person above the shop listening remotely to the shop CCTV on their phone.

When a customer asked for a certain type of cigarettes or tobacco the item was sent down the chute into a drawer under the till.

From the hidden rooms there was access to neighbouring Central cafe where a push-bar door was used as an exit by those putting tobacco in the chute.

Police said the designated premises supervisor for Polski Sklep, who has a home address in Stoke on Trent, was not present at the time of the raid and that they have been unable to trace him.

They added that he and staff working in the shop “have absolutely no regard for UK law” and have requested that the alcohol licence for the shop, which is run by Barez & Co Ltd, be revoked by Kirklees Council.

The review hearing comes before the council’s licensing panel on May 5.