So anti-tobacco laws won’t increase criminal activity, eh?

That’s what the antismoking mob have been saying (along with ‘no slippery slope’, ‘these measures will never be applied to other products’ and other lies). They claim there will be no increase in smuggled tobacco or in illegally-made tobacco.

And yet… the UK police have just busted a gang with a total of eleven tons of raw tobacco and all the necessary bits and bobs to turn it into eleven tons of counterfeit Golden Virginia, along with all the packs to put it in.

This is not someone coming back from Marbella with a few extra packs to sell to mates, nor is it some shed-based local home-producer. This is the big league. They might not be the Mafia, not quite, but they aren’t small scale producers either. The big organised crime gangs will have entire factories devoted to cigarette production by now.

Note that although this tobacco is frequently referred to as ‘fake’, it isn’t fake at all. It’s real tobacco. The fakery is in passing it off as Golden Virginia, not in the tobacco itself.

The scaremongering starts at line one –

A stash of raw tobacco worth £5million which could be mixed with potentially harmful chemicals has been uncovered at an illegal cigarette factory.

The references to ‘chemical drums’ are in fact drums of those preservatives and flavourings that are added to the legal product. Sure, this tobacco ‘could be’ mixed with rat poison or powdered asbestos – but it’s not. These counterfeiters are trying to make a good copy of the real thing. They want repeat custom, not a one-off sale where their next approach will be met with ‘No thanks, your stuff tastes like cow shit’.

All the money it’s alleged to be ‘worth’ is just what the government would have lost in their insane levels of taxation if this tobacco had hit the market. Of course, the tobacco companies would also lose a hell of a lot of money with this amount of copied product floating around, but nobody in the MSM dares to mention that.

The interesting part is that all that leaf they found isn’t actually subject to duty. It’s still leaf. The shredded stuff is subject to duty but the leaf is not. Then again, they have all those empty Golden Virginia packets and a setup that makes their intentions clear. They can be charged with intent to process that leaf into tobacco and thereby defraud the government of its protection money (note that they aren’t likely to be charged with defrauding Imperial Tobacco, who make the real thing) and well, I wouldn’t want to try to formulate their defence for them!

If it was just a warehouse full of leaf they’d have a good defence. It’s for snuff, it’s for making insect-repelling compost, it’s for making Electrofag juice, it’s for making wine…

(A thought occurs to me. Instead of just throwing away any leaves that turn mouldy in my own experiments at curing, I should be digging them into the planting beds)

Boxes full of rolling-tobacco wrappers are a dead giveaway. I don’t think they are going to be able to talk their way out of this one.

It was bound to happen. Just as the never-ending ‘war on drugs’ has given rise to illegal pot-growing installations on a grand scale and chemistry labs in basements producing unregulated experimental medication-based entertainments, this ‘war on tobacco’ has just handed the entire industry over to criminal gangs. Plain packaging will make their job so much easier.

The idiots’ next step will not be to say ‘Whoa, we have taken this much too far now’ but to ban the sale of tobacco leaf and the growing of tobacco. That’s what they did with marijuana and now there isn’t a single plant anywhere in the country. Apart from those massive hidden installations growing it by the ton, of course.

The article mentions that the tobacco leaf was ‘believed to be imported from a tobacco growing country’. They will ban the import of leaf from tobacco growing countries in response. Well, there are no legitimate tobacco companies left in the UK now that the idiot Government has driven the entire industry out of the country. Along with all the jobs associated with that industry. Along with all the income tax paid by all those workers, all the VAT on the goods they used to be able to buy, and the corporation tax and all the rest. So, the idiots will argue, there can be no legitimate reason to import the leaf.

Tobacco grows perfectly well in the UK. Outdoors. Without any fancy lighting or hydroponics. Some quiet corner of a remote farm is very likely to be sprouting a new crop as I type. They could even be within sight of a main road – under big, long polytunnels labelled ‘strawberries’ that have real strawberry plants at each end, as far in as a passing smokefree car can see. No need for imports to supply those gangs. If it grows here, north of Aberdeen, then it’ll certainly grow anywhere south of here. Maybe even further north.

What this Mail article has shown is that those ‘fake tobacco’ producers are in fact producing real tobacco. They aren’t selling dried grass clippings or trimmings from worn-out carpets. They are making counterfeit Golden Virginia but using real tobacco.

I still don’t want any. Now I smoke only pure leaf. I don’t want those additives, thanks. Yet the demand for their product will be immense. The antismokers and their idiots in government have pushed up the price of 50g of Golden Virginia to well over £15. At an estimate, these criminals can make a replica – including packaging – for no more than £2. Probably less. They could sell at £10 a pack and make a massive profit. For all those low-paid smokers, that will be the only source they can afford.

The busted gang were working on a big scale but that’s still as nothing compared to what the really serious criminal gangs could do. The gangs who can afford to pay off local authorities to turn a blind eye, while handing them info on their smaller competitors so the authorities can be seen to be doing something about ‘all those illegal cigarettes’.

Naturally, the ‘you are funding the criminals’ line appears in the article.

‘Cheap tobacco may seem like a bargain, but there are no controls over what is mixed into the product and by buying it smokers are funding organised crime gangs.’

Instead you should buy the heavily taxed product in the shops so you can fund ASH, a health service that does not want to treat you, and a government who hate you absolutely.

Is there really a difference?

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35 thoughts on “So anti-tobacco laws won’t increase criminal activity, eh?

  1. I woudn’t be surprised if the ‘amateurs’ were producing to a better quality than the international companies. They have enough financial headroom to use top quality ingredients and no shareholders to pay out for.

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    • They won’t be better quality yet, but give them time to practise.

      I have considered the possibility of setting up as a legitimate tobacco-seller but the mountain of red tape and impossible regulations mean it can’t be done. All the big boys were happy to see massive regulation because they could afford to comply, but new startups could not.

      Besides, with that ban on advertising, how can a new startup tell customers they even exist? They can’t even see the packs on the shelves any more.

      All this regulation means that the only ones who can possibly set up a tobacco/cigarette production business are the criminals. It’s not possible to do it legally any more. Another few years of this and only the criminal gangs will be producing and selling tobacco.

      Then, when nobody is buying the legal product any more, the government will make tobacco illegal… and it will make no difference at all.

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    • I woudn’t be surprised if the ‘amateurs’ were producing to a better quality than the international companies. They have enough financial headroom to use top quality ingredients and no shareholders to pay out for.

      When generic cigarettes first began appearing I was often asked if ‘they just put floor sweepings and the like in the no-names’. Well, no. I don’t know about elsewhere, but here if it is a ‘class A’ cigarette, it is made with the same ingredients and quality as any ‘name brand’. The taste differential is primarily due to advertising.

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  2. One of the interesting things about the closure of the Imperial tobacco factory is that the treasury will lose its easy collection of duty. A tobacco factory is obliged to pay the duty when it releases the tobacco product onto the market (ie. in advance of any payment for the goods from wholesalers). The treasury used to get a big fat monthly cheque. Now, it is going to have to chase up importers to collect the duty when the products are imported.
    I have been reading about the other majors. As far as I can see, British American has no factory in the UK and Japan International has a factory only in Northern Ireland.
    Somehow, it seems inevitable that duty collection will become more and more costly and avoidance more and more widespread.
    It is an interesting fact (as far as I can see) that ‘tobacco product manufacturing’ is surrounded by massive regulation, but importing is not. Provided that the imported product complies with EU stipulations, there is little possibility for the treasury to make more money. Needless to say, PP will make the import of counterfeit stuff very easy, despite hidden symbols. Are customs going to check every single yucky greeny/brown, obscenely decorated packet in every consignment?

    Etc, Etc.

    These particular individuals have been caught. As with all illegitimate organisations, the lessons will be learnt and the methods employed will become more sophisticated. In fact, it is almost certainly true that really well organised groups will find the whole thing most encouraging.

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    • I wouldn’t be surprised if they were stitched up by a much bigger competitor. As with the marijuana growers, most of the reported ‘catches’ are this scale or smaller. None seem to involve the really big, international, criminal gangs and yet they are all at it.

      Just like in all forms of legally-run business, the big boys will try to stamp on upstarts. The legal businesses do it by calling for expensive regulations they can afford to comply with, but which will kill off any small scale competitors. For the criminal businesses it’s much easier. They just have to send a snitch to talk to the police, and any small operation that looks like becoming a nuisance is immediately closed down.

      Somewhere there is a much bigger operation. They might even employ some of those laid-off cigarette-factory workers…

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  3. An interesting and well thought out article. And yes, increasing tobacco prices will inevitably lead to illegal manufacture and distribution by sophisticated criminal gangs. In New Zealand, where I live, the government is committed to a ‘smoke free’ New Zealand by 2025. This is to be achieved by stepwise, punitive tax hikes and eventually restricting outlets where tobacco can be sold. Currently smoking levels are just under 20% however, this rises to about 40% for the Maori and Pacific Islanders. The government reckons that smoking levels will be less than 5% in 11 years’ time. Apart from the fact that the government have no right to interfere in people’s legal life style choices, I suspect that this ill thought out initiative is doomed for failure. People will always want to smoke and won’t stop because of government edict. Increasing tobacco prices will hit the poorer sections of society hard. Instead of giving up they will just spend less on other things, such as food to the great detriment for their family. I don’t think illegal growing is a big in NZ, yet. But with increasing tobacco prices I’m sure it will become prevalent. The New Zealand climate would be ideal for growing tobacco. Also the population is small and there are vast areas available for cultivation. The authorities will have little or no chance of detecting even quite extensive cultivations. On a related note, cannabis growing in NZ is extensive especially in the sparsely populated areas of the northern part of the North Island. Often the plant is simply cultivated in the native bush.

    Anyway, I will be watching developments at both ends of the world with jaundiced interest.

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    • The New Zealand climate might well be ideal for wild tobacco. It would only take one plant to set seed – each plant produces hundreds of seeds – and it’ll be in every crevice it can find.

      All this talk of making countries ‘smoke free’ – producing heroin is much more difficult than producing tobacco, so surely it should be much easier to make a country heroin-free. I can’t think of one country that has managed to do that.

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  4. “Instead you should buy the heavily taxed product in the shops so you can fund ASH, a health service that does not want to treat you, and a government who hate you absolutely.”

    Precisely. Out of the two groups, I think I prefer the organised crime gangs. At least I don’t have to fund them if I don’t want to!

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    • The point these scaremongers always miss is – those crime gangs don’t hate smokers. They just sell the stuff, they don’t care how we run our lives and aren’t interested in controlling us. That makes all the difference.

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  5. “All the money it’s alleged to be ‘worth’ is just what the government would have lost in their insane levels of taxation if this tobacco had hit the market.”

    How is it ‘lost’ if it were never to be paid anyway? I doubt very much whether the end customers who would have bought this, would go running to Tesco because the gang has been busted. No, they will go to another gang. Its like saying that because you bought a Vauxhall you owe Ford compensation.

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    • That one baffles me every time but the drones seem to grasp it. How is any tax ‘lost’ if it was never going to be paid? How is dodgy baccy sales any different from all of us stopping smoking, which is what they say they want? They ‘lose’ their protection racket money either way.

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  6. “Boxes full of rolling-tobacco wrappers are a dead giveaway. I don’t think they are going to be able to talk their way out of this one.”

    Sure they can. They can point out that the mountains of tobacco are there to remind them of the evil that they are fighting, and that they intend to make millions of origami anti-smoking doves out of the rolling papers and set them afloat on the Thames!

    🙂
    MJM, Defense Lawyer Wanna Be

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    • Michael, I am in much need of a lawyer. The lab I work in mysteriously burnt down under suspicious circumstances. I became an immediate suspect due to multiple convictions for arson. As a professional incendiary, it would be highly unlikely that I would be so blatantly stupid. I think the defense should focus on the circumstantial aspect of the evidence and that my usual aftershave is ‘Eau da la Petrol’.

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  7. It always amuses me how the MSM assumes that if someone is operating outside the law then they will, ipso facto be introducing dangerous contaminants into their product.

    These guys aren’t brainless muggers, they are astute entrepreneurs who have seen that vast profits lie in supplying illicit tobacco. As you point out, LI, they want return custom, and the only way to ensure that is to supply a good product, just as in the licit sector.

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    • the MSM assumes that if someone is operating outside the law then they will, ipso facto be introducing dangerous contaminants into their product

      The similarities are startling.

      “..cigarettes quickly developed a most unsavory reputation.

      First, their newness made them easy targets for the vilest rumors; cigarette papers were said to be saturated with opium, arsenic, and other poisons.
      Cigarette tobacco reportedly was gleaned from cigar butts retrieved from urban gutters by derelicts and street urchins.

      More revolting was the widely circulated report that cigarette-factory workers urinated on the tobacco to give it “bite.”

      The fact that cigarette smoke was inhaled – a practice not usually associated with cigar or pipe smoking made the alleged “adulterations” even more dangerous.”

      The Hundred-Year War Against the Cigarette
      http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/fuw09a00/pdf;jsessionid=6F840F382E58F685CF50AB185D123DB8.tobacco04

      Of course, these days “opium, arsenic, and other poisons” sound far too exotic to believed.

      Rat droppings seem to be popular though.

      As though cigarettes weren’t bad enough, the fake ones are ‘full of rat droppings and lethal chemicals’ – 2008
      http: //www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-560568/As-cigarettes-werent-bad-fake-ones-rat-droppings-lethal-chemicals.html

      Alert over ‘rat droppings’ in counterfeit cigarettes – 2010

      “Counterfeit cigarettes being sold in Lancashire could contain rat droppings and sawdust, trading standards officers are warning.”
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/lancashire/8464119.stm

      Rat droppings and dead insects – what is inside Derbyshire’s cheap tobacco? – 2013
      http: //www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/Rat-droppings-dead-insects-inside-Derbyshire-s/story-20046104-detail/story.html

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    • One thing I missed when writing that. If tobacco is the most dangerous thing on the planet (as we are often told) then introducing any other ‘dangerous’ substance must, necessarily, make the resulting mix less dangerous than the pure tobacco.

      So anything you add to the ‘most dangerous thing in the world’ is making it safer. Even if it’s molten lead.

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  8. ‘Instead you should buy the heavily taxed product in the shops so you can fund ASH, a health service that does not want to treat you, and a government who hate you absolutely.’
    The crims will see you as a valued customer. That’s several steps up from the current situation.

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    • ‘Instead you should buy the heavily taxed product in the shops so you can fund ASH

      Yes, but don’t forget a molecule or two of every bite of food that goes down their devious throats, unwillingly paid for by punitive taxes, came from someone who undoubtedly hates them and wishes them ill.

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      • Ah, if only ‘ill-wishing’ was a potent form of magic. It used to be, but it requires the target to believe in it.

        It also requires the target to be actually human.

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    • Indeed. The criminals have no interest in controling your life. They are not going to sell you their product, make a big profit from you, and then tell you where you can and cannot use that product.

      This is the part the ‘experts’ cannot understand. I doubt they ever will.

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  9. Have you people considered the implications of “males” (of no specified ethnicity) being arrested in Preston and Blackburn…in particular?

    Can we perhaps suggest what direction the “undercover trade” will be moving in?

    Do those people have to, or even need to, care about ASH, for instance?

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    • The antismoking lot have attacked Shisha bars too. However, the People Of Whom You Speak simply ignore the antis.

      Some of us honkies do too, but it’s not widespread and we are more secretive about it. Because we know we won’t get away with it.

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  10. Very quick workup.

    11 tonnes of tobacco at £4 per kilo delivered. (it sells for $2 per kilo in Malawi)

    Cost £44,000

    Take moisture content to 20% (industry standard).

    Result is 12.1 tonnes.

    Allow removal of central stems (though the packs seem to be without stem).

    Result is (call it 10 tonnes to humour me)

    10 tonnes of shredded tobacco fills 200,000 50g pouches.

    Rip-off Golden Virginia sells for about 33% of normal retail at car boot sales (£6), or up to 40% (£7.20) in housing estates. The front guy wants a 100% mark up but deals in small quantities. Definitely not recommended – too many cooks and such.

    200,000 pouches sold thus yields £600,000 to £700,000 gross.

    It sells for 50% retail for those who deal under the counter in newsagents or seedy pubs and such, but it has to be very good indeed (£9 to you, £4.50 markup for seller).

    200,000 pouches sold this way yields £900,000 gross.

    But the best deal is to get it passed off as the real thing via a network of people who happen to own “retail outlets”. Then the deal is closer to £9 per pouch to the manufacturer, or a cool £1,800,000.

    I note the photos show pouches for GVG and Amber Leaf. Dutch, Belgian or Spanish warnings. No reason to assume they did not have pouches for UK.

    Allow for the cost of machinery plus “chemicals” (additives to you or I) and the whole shebang could yield anything from £400k to £1,600k.

    No one, but no one is holding 11 tonnes of tobacco on startup, even if tobacco is the cheapest bit. These guys have been at it for some time. They got complacent and they got greedy.

    They were shopped, probably because they were muscling into a new territory.

    Keep it small scale, keep the distribution network to a minimum and keep up the standards. Make sure everyone gets a fair cut and it’ll play for years.

    No need to question if this is being repeated elsewhere. With those kinds of profit margins, it’s a given there are dozens more. Hopefully all small scale with smarter heads involved.

    Oh and make sure you launder your profits outside the EU.

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  11. Another conspiracy theory I’m developing is that the PTB actually *want* our communities to be run by criminal gangs. And in fact so they are in probably every town by now. Drugs mainly of course (or so we would think, because of the profits), but also doubtless many other things. Given the money now able to be made, tobacco will certainly, by now, fall into the ‘other things’ category, and this article is all the proof one needs. And tobacco is in fact a drug too, as we know, almost now an illegal one as well. Even pursued with more vigour than heroin in many ways, as you also succinctly noted.

    But – smoking will never be wiped out totally (or much at all), as is the case with heroin and co. And in fact I doubt the PTB want to wipe it out, any more than they wish to wipe out heroin. The drug problem is a lucrative opportunity for so many ’employees’ in the ‘industry’ of rehab and counselling. The legal profession get fat on the situation. The whole business is a charade and another plank in the plan to rupture the UK, socially, financially, morally, etc, etc.

    Now this might seem another silly conspiracy theory because after all, the PTB want everyone to stop smoking. But do they really? Granted there is a huge loss of potential revenue if everyone does stop smoking, or alternatively, criminal gangs supply the evil weed and circumvent tax contributions (duty and tax on the profits). And also it does seem the authorities are pursuing the criminals, as per this story. But there’s a wider plan I believe. See the previous paragraph.

    And of course the authorities will always take down the odd token criminals. It makes them look good, is a feather in an odd cap or two, the drones believe the authorities are on the side of law and order (bad law notwithstanding) and a few bottom feeders or even middle feeders are taken out. Their cash and assets are confiscated (nice) but for every bust, several (at least) other gangs will still operate untouched. The vacuum created is an opportunity for others. The bigger gangs will continue with impunity and they might even be responsible for dobbing in the unfortunates, as you have noticed in this case. The parallels with the more traditional (ha) drugs trade are plain to see. It’s one big charade.

    The Police in every town have been emasculated or even liquidated. I never see a copper now on the streets (for years really) and it’s come to my mind recently that I haven’t even seen any driving about in vehicles for ages. A scant few at most and I couldn’t say when it was I last saw a cop car. I see the odd token PCSO but we all know what a joke that scene is.

    I know of a local cop (via a mate), one of those archetypal cases who has just a few years left in the job and (common quote) – ‘can’t wait to retire’. He tells that in our area, and covering several small towns (small by Gtr Manchester standards but still tens of thousands of folk each), council estates and all roads between there is now just ONE traffic (cop) car. Anyone being busted for drink-driving is either extremely unlucky or a rank fool, is his assertion. Traffic policing is now being done by camera alone virtually. Now a camera can detect excess speed or jumping a traffic light but it can’t detect that a driver is over the alcohol limit. You need a human (cop) for that. But they aren’t there. They’ve been got rid of. There are no other cars or vans (non-traffic patrol) driving about either.

    One local cop-shop has been closed down entirely and recently turned into a ‘community school’ – yet another Orwellian sounding institution. Another cop-shop in the next town is now closed to the public and exists purely for administrative purposes. The sub-divisional HQ in the larger town 4 miles away now closes for business around 5pm. I think it used to be 10pm a few years ago, but that’s been cut further. Once upon a time of course it was never closed and was an important hub where swarms of cops could coming issuing forth from within. Dogs, horses and traffic control were there. Now, it’s like a part-time shop, skeleton-staffed. When they close for the day (because there can’t possibly be any crime at night!), they have to pull down aluminium shutters over the windows and doors. That’s to stop criminals breaking in and stealing all the computers and things. I mean – could you make this shit up?

    So the local Mounted Police unit has been disbanded. Cops round here even have to catch the bus to get from station to station (honestly that’s true, amazing and laughable though that is).

    Repeat – cops here don’t have cars to use – they HAVE TO CATCH THE BUS to get from A to B. Seriously.

    Even in the event a cop is present (unlikely) and makes an arrest (unlikely), there is little will to proceed and even less chance of success. All the paperwork precludes it. My contact has told me that cops are extremely reluctant to pursue anything because of this, certainly nothing ‘trivial’ – like drink-driving or low-level heroin selling.

    The authorities know all this and have planned it. For all the loss of duty or tax, there’s a flip side in the ‘industry’ of control and ‘treatment’, the legal profession, the confiscations (though doubtless minor in the scheme of things) but more so in the abrogation of duty and the creeping terrorisation (and corruption) of the populace.

    Criminal gangs now run most of our towns, in their shadowy, underworld control and enrichment methods and in their control by terror, of the locals. The authorities know it and mostly do not care. It furthers the agenda of fracture and dissolution and of the corruption of everyone. When you buy illicit tobacco, you know you are doing some kind of wrong (even though you disagree with the extreme laws, or taxation) but because nobody now really respects the law (because the law is an ass and extreme and counter-productive), general morality plunges. It’s all very well to say NO, and to rebel and to attempt to extricate oneself from the control mechanisms, but unfortunately not everyone has a perfect handle on this. Most people don’t know how to keep things in perspective or see the overall picture. Whilst *we* (ahem) might keep matters to simple tax avoidance and self-sufficiency where possible, and be doing this in support of some traditional but essentially patriotic spirit, very many others take it further and disregard ALL laws in total. We may only be purchasing our whole leaf and brewing our own beer but Johnny Chav and co are doing those things but also abandoning their kids, robbing the locals, selling smack and etc, etc. The entire country is corrupt. We know it’s the government, all stripes of them, but it is by now almost all of the population too.

    I know a local cafe operator, a long-time trader, a hard-working fellow who, despite being somewhat of a gossip and a busybody, is still essentially a sound chap. He’s also ex-grammar school educated and into various hobbies, projects and scenes. He’s no dumbass is what I mean. He has (though naively and foolishly I think) got into the fringes of local politics over the years and has been Chair of some local traders’ guild and township forum. Utterly boring I would think and swimming against a tide of drones (other traders and compatriots no doubt included), let alone striving against corrupt local councils and officials. But anyway, it’s what he wants to do. At least he gets intel and makes obs that we might not.

    He tells me that the entire takeaway scene in town (stuffed to the gills with takeaways – and almost all foreign) is controlled by a mafia of Iranian origin. He says a hell of a lot of the entire North West takeaway scene answers to this Iranian group. They operate from a HQ situated in a well-known provincial Lancashire town (not city).

    Oh – exceptions are the Oriental takeaways. They are answerable to another group. I think we might guess who they are. But the rest are Iran based. Iran eh? It surprised me and I remain a little skeptical. But so was he at first (and he’s far less ‘left-field’ than I might be) but after careful study and gradual intel he’s now convinced of it. He’s now dismayed and feels like the lone English operator surrounded by a sea of sharks. And of course he is, even if his theory isn’t wholly accurate. He’s even more dismayed by the fact that the authorities are fully aware of it and seem to be doing nothing about it. Can you believe it he says?

    I’ll yell ya – our country is being run by gangsters throughout. Ones with collars and ties and others with tracky-bottoms and black BMWs. We’re in the middle.

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