Skip to main content

Council reaches £1 million milestone in Oxford Street raids

Published: 3 March 2023

Westminster City Council has now seized £1 million worth of illegal and counterfeit goods from US Candy Stores and Souvenir Shops on Oxford Street since started operations 15 months ago.

In the latest series of raids, officers in partnership with trading standards and the Metropolitan Police targeted two shops on Oxford Street confiscating a variety of items with a value of £145,000.

Almost 7000 items were collected as part of this round of enforcement some of which include:

  • 2381 vape pens double the UK limit of nicotine and over 15 times over the legal tank size. These were originally hidden from officers to avoid detection but were recovered from five suitcases displayed on the shopfloor.
  • 1723 counterfeit mobile phone cases.
  • 1602 unsafe charging leads.
  • 372 power banks with no safety labelling or UK company details.
  • 273 unsafe travel adapters.
  • 182 counterfeit EarPods sold at different price points depending on who the customer is.

After surpassing the £1 million-mark, Cllr Adam Hug, leader of Westminster City Council said:

Yesterday’s raid on US candy store and souvenir shops on Oxford Street is the latest in our ongoing operations to stop the sale of unsafe or illegal goods and means that over the past 15 months, we have now seized more than £1m in items from super strength vapes to designer fakes. That is an astonishing amount of fake and potentially dangerous items taken off the streets of the West End.

We are dealing here with a sophisticated and determined rack that exploits UK legal loopholes to trade from shop lets. But these people now realise they are dealing with an equally determined council which will protect consumers with ongoing enforcement. We are also chasing £9m in unpaid business rates through the courts.

However, as a local authority, we can only do so much. The biggest issue enabling unscrupulous traders is the fact they are usually run by shell companies with fictitious directors. There is a glaring lack of governance around setting up companies in the UK with only cursory checks on who the directors are – frankly, there are more checks involved if you want to get a local authority library lending card. 

We need the new Economic Crime Bill to help clamp down on these loopholes and to provide government agencies such as Companies House and HMRC with the powers and funding they need. As a council, we are doing all we can – but we need increased cross-government support to make life sour for the sweet shop racketeers.”