'Shisha factory' uncovered in Westminster raid

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Media captionWestminster City Council's trading standards found 100 boxes of shisha and equipment at the property on the Harrow Road

A basement which is thought to have been used as an illegal shisha factory has been uncovered in central London.

Westminster City Council's trading standards found 100 boxes of shisha and equipment at the Harrow Road property.

The raid was carried out after a neighbour was "overcome by fumes".

The council said it was considering bringing charges against the owner of the property relating to counterfeit goods and health and safety.

During the raid officers found 38 boxes of shisha tobacco, two cement mixers which had been used to churn the leaf with rosehip oil to flavour it, and ingredients in "vast quantities" including red food dye, glycerine and molasses.

'Concrete dust'

The council said the number of shisha cafes had increased to 115 in the borough in recent years which had "heightened concerns" that most tobacco was being "illegally smuggled into the country, with no duty paid".

The council said the unsanitary conditions of the alleged production area had also raised concerns with a toilet having been taken out to allow the run-off liquid to drain away, leaving the floor slippery and covered in red dye.

Councillor Nickie Aiken said: "If, as it seems to be, no tax is being paid on the tobacco the treasury has been losing out.

"Not only that but as if smoking isn't bad enough as it is, this is being stirred in with concrete dust."

Shisha is a water-pipe, popular in many Arab countries, in which fruit-scented tobacco is burnt using coal, passed through an ornate water vessel and inhaled through a hose.

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