Forty thousand smuggled cigarettes and other counterfeit goods have been seized after police and customs officers swooped on markets across Manchester.
Nine people have been arrested following the multi-agency operation in which counterfeit DVDs, CDs, clothing and 23kg of tobacco were also seized.
The operation, which also included trading standards officers, targeted Greymare Lane, Newton Heath and Harpurhey markets.
Government research published last year estimated that more than half of the million cigarettes seized every day are counterfeit, while as much as 85 per cent of smuggled cigarettes sold in London are fakes.
Many counterfeit cigarettes are manufactured in underground factories abroad using contaminated tobacco leaves and have much higher levels of tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide, lead, cadmium and arsenic than genuine cigarettes.
Which? senior researcher Julie Hunter said: ‘Counterfeit goods not only fund criminal activity but can be sub standard, unsafe and potentially harmful. Plus you have no rights if things go wrong.
‘It can be difficult to spot fakes but consider “person, place and price”. Legitimate traders don’t sell in pubs. And if the price seems to good to be true it usually is.’
Linda Paul, HM Revenue & Customs Head of Detection in north-west England said: ‘These multi-agency operations show how joint working can help protect honest shopkeepers from illegal competition, by removing these smuggled cigarettes and tobacco from the supply chain.
‘If you know of suspicious activities which may result from tobacco smuggling, call our 24-hour freephone 0800 59 5000, or fax free on 0800 5280506.’
Look out for our investigation into the murky trade in counterfeit goods soon.