A STASH of counterfeit clothing, more than 10 kilos of tobacco and thousands of cigarettes have been seized by government officials.

Nine shops across Banbury were part of a joint operation lead by HM Revenue and Customs officers on Wednesday, March 7, and goods seized from three of them.

The items, all believed to be illicit, included 4,700 cigarettes, more than eight and a half kilos of hand-rolling tobacco, two kilos of chewing tobacco, and a bag of tobacco leaves.

Two tobacco dogs from Border Force helped uncover tobacco hidden in various parts of the shops, including concealed within seating areas.

As part of the operation Thames Valley Police also seized a quantity of suspected Class A drugs and Class B drugs and HMRC has said a man has since been arrested and released under investigation.

More than 30 counterfeit clothing and trainers were also seized during the operation from one shop by Oxfordshire County Council trading standards officers.

HMRC fraud investigation service assistant director Richard Mayer said: "The sale of illegal tobacco and wider criminality 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 £2.5 billion a year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders."

The stash found in Banbury included the cigarettes with an estimated £1,640 revenue evaded and 8.55 kilos of hand-rolling tobacco with an estimated £2,351 revenue evaded.

Thames Valley Police Sergeant Sarah Nash said: "This was a fantastic opportunity to work alongside partner agencies and disrupt criminality in Banbury Town Centre.

"The health risks associated with the trading of illegal cigarettes are significant and it is a positive result to have such quantities removed from the streets.

"We have also seized a significant amount of illegal drugs from a business premises and enquiries are ongoing in relation to this.

"We urge members of the community to report any illegal activity they are aware of via 101 or through the local Neighbourhood Teams.”