Playing into gangs’ hands

I WRITE in response to your article “Trader fined after tobacco ‘sting’ op” published on August 3, which highlighted the continued problem of illicit tobacco in your area.

The decision by the Government to delay implementation of plain packaging for tobacco products until the emerging impact of the decision in Australia is better understood, should be welcomed by all who are concerned about counterfeit cigarettes.

Since September 2011 I have been researching the trade in illicit and counterfeit tobacco products in the UK, including the links to organised crime. This work involves liaising closely with the various law enforcement agencies that have interests in this area as well as investigations in particular known hot-spot locations across the country.

Profit margins for counterfeit tobacco products are extremely high. Just as armed robberies of the 70s and 80s made way for the drugs trade and large scale fraud in the 90s, so a new crime of choice has emerged, which carries less risk and even greater profits. The trade in illicit tobacco has become the primary source of revenue for some criminal gangs and terrorist groups and it has already reached epidemic proportions. As part of my engagement with Trading Standards, they have described the situation in parts of the UK as reaching “chronic proportions.”

Illicit tobacco also has a very direct impact on local businesses. A new survey this month carried out by the Tobacco Retailers Alliance has found that one in six corner shops (17%) in the UK are under threat due to lost sales from tobacco smuggling and cross-border shopping.

It is perfectly clear to anyone who has dealt with counterfeiting and the black market that the idea of putting cigarettes in plain packets would be a boon for organised crime, which so often targets children. So I applaud the Government’s decision to wait and their ability to understand the impact of plain packaging on illicit tobacco.

Will O’Reilly

Former Scotland Yard

Detective Chief Inspector

No way to treat club

I have been a member of Charnock Richard Golf Club for only four months, and at the time of joining was not told of any plans for the course to be sold or even closed.

The club was a friendly place and the members were very welcoming and helpful.

As a community nurse working in Liverpool, the opportunity to play golf was and is an essential part of stress reduction – until now.

A few weeks ago we were told the course was being sold at auction and was bought by our rich neighbour from Wigan – Mr Whelan.

At the time of purchase, Mr Whelan promised to keep the club as a ‘going concern’ and that he would honour all memberships until completion.

However, last week, upon arriving at the golf course, it was evident that a ‘fire sale’ was ensuing, during which all the ground maintenance equipment was to be sold.

If Mr Whelan ever had the intention to keep the golf course open, then why would he not have bought the equipment in the first place?

In the past week, and after all the mowers and needed equipment has gone, all of a sudden it is now stated that the golf course cannot be maintained to the correct standard due to the lack of equipment and therefore the club is closed.

The statement from Wigan Athletic, who wish to build a training facility, empowers all aggrieved members to contact the now ex-owners of the golf course for help with reimbursement of membership fees.

My question is therefore Mr Whelan – why did you promise to honour memberships and then renege on this, close the course and re-direct YOUR golf club members to the previous owners?

I’ve asked a question but have an underlying suspicion!

It was never intended to allow Charnock Richard Golf Club to die gracefully and I hope your planning application ends in the same fashion.

John Stephens via email