TWO shops with a history of criminal activity have been forced to close after illegal tobacco was found hidden on the premises.

An operation involving police, trading standards and Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service found large amounts of smuggled non-duty paid tobacco were hidden behind sophisticated hidden compartments.

Supersam in Eign Street and Zabka in Eign Gate were searched, with four people arrested by police. They have been released pending further investigation.

A specialist trained 'tobacco search dog' was used in the operation and the two shops have been closed for three months after magistrates granted the closure orders.

West Mercia Police said both premises have a long history of criminal activity concerning the sale and supply of non-duty paid alcohol and tobacco and the employment of illegal immigrants.

Both were previously licensed to sell alcohol however these licenses were revoked due to similar criminal conduct in the last few years.

There have been five successful applications in the last 12 months in Herefordshire to close retail premises involved in the sale and supply of smuggled or contraband tobacco.

Sergeant Duncan Reynolds, police community safety supervisor for Herefordshire said: "The police will continue to work with partners to tackle criminal behaviour connected to retail premises.

"Whilst court applications are successful in closing these premises, there is a need for the landlords to recognise their responsibilities by ensuring their tenants know that criminal behaviour is not acceptable.

"Landlords are encouraged to take action to remove tenants who are persistent in their criminal conduct."

The public are encouraged to report illegal criminal activity to the police, through CrimeStoppers and 0800 555111 or to Herefordshire Council Trading Standards on 01432 261761

The sale of smuggled non duty paid tobacco and contraband tobacco has a significant impact on UK tax revenue and importantly public health.

The powers to grant a Closure Order are contained in Section 80 of the Anti Social Behaviour, Policing and Crime Act 2014.

The effect of this order is to prohibit all people from entering the premises. Exceptions are put in place to allow owners/landlords or their agents to enter if required.