Tyneside trading standards officers have seized tens of thousands of illegal cigarettes with a little help from man’s best friend.

Staff from Newcastle City Council and Northumbria Police were joined by specialist sniffer dogs Copper and Yoyo in raids on four premises across Benwell, Byker and Heaton areas. All in all the four legged sleuths helped to score 32,000 suspected illegal cigarettes and a kilogram of illicit hand rolled tobacco.

David Ellerington, manager of Newcastle City Council trading standards, which led the operation, said: “These remarkable sniffer dogs have once again proven their worth by landing another blow to the illegal tobacco trade that blights the health of residents right across Tyneside.

“We know the sale of illicit cigarettes not only leads young people to become addicted, which has long term negative effects on their lives, but often has links to organised crime.

In another connected raid, officers from North Tyneside Trading Standards seized more than 14,000 cigarettes and 5kgs of rolling tobacco from a shop in Wallsend. The seizures were made under Operation CeCe, a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC to tackle illegal tobacco.

In a separate, linked raid, trading standards officers from North Tyneside Council also seized more than 14,000 cigarettes and nearly 5kg of rolling tobacco from a shop in Wallsend.

“Some people may think the selling of counterfeit goods is a victimless crime, but quite often these goods can be a product of organised crime,” said Chief inspector Ron Charlton, of Northumbria Police. “Groups can supply them into the region with the intention of making money, which enables them to then continue to fund illicit activities.