The hide was detected on 6 October 2021, following a series of searches at several businesses in the town, which also involved HM Revenue and Customs, Gravesham Council and Home Office Immigration.
Specialist search dogs assisted the warrants to detect illegally obtained cigarettes and tobacco, which are sold without paying the necessary UK duties. Three shops were visited in Milton Road. The haul of 18,000 cigarettes was found in one of the stores hidden behind an air vent, with more found concealed under a bench.
At another premises a false bottom was found inside a fridge, which revealed further quantities of illegal cigarettes. In a third shop, officers located a device which activated the opening of a false wall where more tobacco was stored.
In total more than 28,000 cigarettes were seized along with 137 pouches of tobacco. The operation is the third of its kind in recent weeks to target illicit tobacco sales in the town, after previous action last month when officers confiscated 21,133 cigarettes and 102 pouches of tobacco, as well as mobile phones, vehicles and cash.
Inspector James Beautridge, from the Gravesham Community Safety Unit, said: ‘The results from these days of action speak volumes as we have been able to make significant seizures as well as gather a vast amount of intelligence. The supply and sale of illicit cigarettes and tobacco is an ongoing issue for towns across the country.
‘It is an illegal trade which we know is often associated with the activities of organised criminal groups. Law-abiding businesses operating in these areas are also negatively affected by this type of crime. We worked with our partners to take swift and robust action and are now in a position to apply for closure orders in connection to some of the businesses.’