MORE than 100kgs of illegal shisha tobacco has been seized from city businesses after a joint operation conducted by the police, HMRC customs officials and Leicester City Council.

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Officers visited seven shisha cafes last week (26 June) and found that five of them had non-duty paid shisha on the premises. One business had nearly 45kgs of illegal shisha tobacco on the premises.

In total, the haul represents up to £20,000 in evaded duty on the tobacco.

Officers also found numerous health and safety contraventions at five of the businesses, ranging from unsafe electrics, gas cylinders stored unsafely, poorly maintained heaters, and fire doors propped open to smoking shelters that did not comply with smoke-free laws.

The unannounced visits are part of a long-term project to improve safety at shisha cafes after two fires at shisha premises in the city. Members of the public have also raised ongoing concerns about working practices and health and safety at some shisha cafes.

Investigations are ongoing and further action may result.

Councillor Sarah Russell, assistant city mayor responsible for neighbourhood services, said: “We visit these businesses regularly to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities. Unannounced visits allow us to check they are complying with the law.

“This joint operation clearly shows that some businesses are failing to heed our advice and put themselves, their employees and their customers at risk.

“Public safety is a priority for us, and this action also sends an important message to others – that we will take steps against businesses like these that flout the law.”

Martin McDonnell from HMRC said: “The public and retailers play a vital role in our fight against the illicit tobacco trade. We urge people to come forward and let us know if they have information about the smuggling, sale, transport, or storage of illicit cigarettes or tobacco by calling the customs hotline on 0800 59 5000. You can also report suspicious trading, tax evasion or smuggling via our website to help us tackle organised crime. ”

Chief Inspector Bill Knopp said “Our Safer Neighbourhood Teams are often the route that the public report concerns to over shisha cafés. As a public safety issue we will continue to share information and work with Leicester City Council to reduce the risk posed to communities through cafes breaking the law.”