Stephen Stewart, Sunday Mail
A BRAZEN smuggling gang has been caught dealing deadly counterfeit cigarettes – just months after they were exposed on TV.
Shocking pictures show crook John Scullion back at Ayr market peddling tobacco after he was named and shamed in a BBC Scotland investigation in January.
Cheeky Scullion and his cronies openly sold “illicit whites” – tobacco from China with 30 times more lead than normal cigarettes – at Ayr Sunday market on April 17.
The images were taken by former Metropolitan Police officer Bob Fenton during an undercover swoop on tobacco smugglers, who rob the country of £4billion a year in tax.
Fenton said: “They’re very brazen about selling this stuff. It was only a couple of months since they were exposed and yet they are back up to their old tricks.
“Scullion was there, clear as day, selling tobacco – he had several cartons of cigarettes tucked in his coat. He was shouting that tobacco and cigarettes were for sale.
“I watched several sales take place and I purchased a packet of counterfeit Lambert and Butler for £3.50. With tobacco smugglers, the fear of being caught is outweighed by the profits they can make.”
A former Detective Chief Superintendent, Fenton is a surveillance specialist for the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, which represents UK tobacco firms.
He added: “These guys operate at the market but there doesn’t seem to be any enforcement action against them. They make too much money and if caught, may only end up with a community service order.”
Christopher Ogden, chief of the TMA, said: “January’s increase in VAT and the tax hike at the Budget, has led to cigarette prices increasing by up to 66p for a pack of 20 and 87p on 25 grams of handrolling tobacco.
“This will incentivise smokers to seek cheaper illicit products and provide a profit motive for organised criminals to smuggle.
“The illicit tobacco market will continue to provide significant challenges but we look forward to a stronger working relationship with government and law enforcement agencies to address the problem.”
In January, BBC Scotland filmed secretly at the Ayr market as crooks flogged dodgy tobacco for half the price of the real thing.
Trader Scullion was caught selling the tobacco and passing the money to cashier Alan Higgins, who is a convicted thief.
We also revealed that Scullion was part of terror chief Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair’s massive cigarette smuggling operation in Ayrshire.
A South Ayrshire Council spokeswoman, said: “The council takes a very dim view of the sale of counterfeit goods particularly those that risk the health of the public.
“It is not appropriate for us to comment on operational matters but we can confirm we work with all relevant agencies to pursue individuals who trade illicit goods.”