Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dodgy Fake Fags - and some human rights abuses - emanating from Kensington

Liam and I had a very worrying meeting on Wednesday with the Principal Trading Standards Officer.

He was very open with us and I dont intend to disclose a lot of what he told us as it was in confidence, but I think it is okay to let you know about the main thrust of what we discussed.

We had asked for the meeting following a front page article in the Liverpool Echo a few weeks ago about the rising amount of fake tobacco products in Liverpool, which suggested that Kensington was a key area for its production.

The PTSO set the scene for us.

Apparently there are young people so keen to leave China that they will sign up with Gangmasters for a passage to Europe. Some of them end up in the UK. They are then in the debt of the gangmasters and are then obliged to work for them until their debt is repaid.

This work, where it affects Trading Standards and thus our report, involves illegally copying and then selling box-office hits onto DVDs and also copying pornography (rather than filming it I think) and selling them to customers in city pubs. They also assemble tobacco products and sell them in the same way.

This latter is more complicated than it sounds. They get loose tobacco in one consignment and empty pouches in another, and then fill one with the other and seal it up. Golden Virginia and Old Holborn mainly. This tobacco does not have much in common with the original product, both are of course deadly, but the fake stuff is even more so, containing such lovely things as rats droppings! But it is half the price of the real thing.

They also receive loose cigarettes in one consignment, empty cigarette packs in another (sometimes flat pack sometimes already made up) which they pack and then bind in cellaphane.

They then sell them in pubs for half the price of UK cigs

This might seem like a good deal to a smoker, but really they are smoking arsenic and rats droppings along with an increased supply of tar and nicotine

I am a smoker, I cannot pretend otherwise, but there are legal risks in smoking dodgy fags with no duty paid and there are of course even more deadly risks. Obviously there is no such thing as "good cigarettes" but there is definitely something called "seriously bad cigarettes" and these are they.

Very scary stuff, first message of today is DONT BUY DODGY FAGS, you have no idea what you are putting in your mouth.

The other big problem that I am seriously concerned about is the lives of the young people caught up in this game.

They come to the UK presumably with the hope and with dreams of a great new life in the West.

What they get is a modern-day slave trade.

They sell fags and DVDs in pubs

They live in a house with a lot of other Chinese people in similar circumstances

They get up early, make up pouches of tobacco, make up cigarettes, copy DVDs, package them all up and then get out to pubs to start selling.

If they get arrested, which happens very regularly, they might get a week in prison (counterfeiting does not carry a big sentence) they come out, and they cannot work at something else because they are illegal immigrants and there is a law against employing illegal immigrants. So no-one "proper" will take them on.

They are not allowed to access social housing.

They cannot claim benefits.

They cannot go back to China as they have been told to destroy their papers by the gangmasters - and the Chinese authorities wont have you back without papers (clever gangmasters, or what!)

They cannot escape to another part of the country as there is nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat and no way of getting any of these.

And most of them cannot speak English other than "DVD?" or "Cigarettes" or "£2.50 for twenty".

So they reluctantly go back to the gangmaster, who was probably waiting for them outside prison anyway, and they go back to live in houses of overcrowding, where the three bedrooms are taken up with manufacture and storage of DVDs or tobacco projects, the front room downstairs has one bed in it, and a number of sleeping bags, where they sleep in shifts, and the back room downstairs is running half a dozen DVD burners, 24/7

The kitchen has more pots and crockery than a hotel kitchen, heaven only knows how they all get in to feed themselves. (I saw all this on a video that the Trading Standards had captured on a recent raid).

So when you buy dodgy fags or DVDs, you are not just evading duty, or cheating the tax man, or damaging your health, you are also supporting a slave system for young people with no escape.

That is not great is it?

Liam and I were very shaken by our meeting and I keep thinking about this one girl that I heard about, who is only 17 and already enslaved in the system, having been arrested 6 times thus far

And I want to find her and take her home and help her find a new life, but I cannot. Because I couldnt support her and even if I could, I couldnt support the next girl, or the one after that.

At the risk of making myself deeply unpopular with certain parts of the community, I think these innocent and gullible young "slaves" should be allowed to give evidence against the gang-masters, leading to a successful conviction, whereupon they should be declared as legal and entitled to claim asylum or the right to remain or something similar.

That would mean that the gangmasters lost their claim over young people's lives and the scheme would be dead in the water within weeks.

Is there a national politician out there ready to take this on?


scouseboy said...

The way these poor unfotunate people are being treated is nothing short of a disgrace, and we, as a so called civilised society, should hang our heads in shame for tolerating it.

Anonymous said...

I am investigating this at the moment.
After suffering an abrasion on my tongue. Doc said it may well be due to smoking. or dodgey tobacco. After I changed back to buying the normal lagit brand my abrasion has cleared up!!
so I will be doing my bit to shut these fks down. You can bet on it!
It's now..personal!

Anonymous said...

I myself do not smoke and i think its a bad habbit for anyone to smoke, so if you buy dodgy tobacco or cigs then all smokers get what they deserve. It costs the NHS millions of pounds each year to treat people with problems from the smoking of fags so i would say giveup the stupid habbit for good and then you can complai but untill then stop moaning you get what you deserve.

Anonymous said...

Why should WE hang our heads in shame? This is a by-product of our governments high tax methods. If tax wasn't so high there would be no selling-point on these products or any other 'black-market' items. I am a non-smoker so couldn't care less how much people pay but gangmasters, as you call them, the Chinese, Italian and Russian 'Mafias' would have no leverage to sell these through a slave trade if they couldn't beat our own prices so easily. As for it costing the NHS so much money each year, take a look at how much tax money the government sends away each year BEFORE it is considered for NHS, Emergency Response, Social Housing Etc. Last year Africa as a whole received over £200 billion from the UK. The so-called nationalisation of banks was a 'reported' £60 billion but I would imagine its a lot more, not even counting the number of back-handers it took to get the motion passed through Lords and the Parliament. So whether or not my mate down the pub pays for a pack of Golden Vagina or Ample Leaf will make no difference to the grand scale of things. Italian and Albanian Mafia are now sending hoards of Turks and North Africans this and from what I've read tobacco and it's prices will be the least of our worries. This country will be one of two things in the near future - communist or war-torn.

Good Luck.

Anonymous said...

saying smokers cost the nhs millions is true, but with all the added tax and vat they get billions from it, so smokers wouldnt be costing the nhs anything if the government put the vat and tax into the nhs!

Anonymous said...

Fed up with ignorant people saying smokers cost the NHS more and more money and don't deserve these expensive medical treatments because smokers choose to smoke - if you want to look it like that then anybody who chooses to get into a car brings it upon themselves if they are involved in a car crash and are seriously hurt - after all they knew the dangers getting in to that car - nearly everything we suffer with medically can be seen as inflicted on us by our own choices so lets not forget that when folk are blaming smokers for their ill health. This situation here with fake fags etc is not just another reason to have a go at smokers - its the lives off these poor people who are desperately trying to better their lives but who end up locked in a living nightmare - a lot of people take their own freedom for granted have no idea what it must be like for these poor individuals - but hey lets just forget about them and blame the smokers like you always do!