THE owner of a Tamworth shop has today been sentenced after over 12,000 illegal cigarettes and 5kg of hand rolling tobacco were seized in just 12 months.
Jabar Hussain, 45, of King William Street, Coventry was the business owner of Ezee Shop on Bolebridge Street, and was sentenced today (Monday) at Newcastle under Lyme Magistrates Court.
Hussain pleaded guilty to two offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994 for possession of counterfeit tobacco, with the intention of selling the goods, and one offence under tobacco labelling regulations for possessing foreign tobacco that doesn’t comply with UK laws which dated back to 2ndDecember 2017.
Hussain was sentenced by Magistrates who issued a £140 fine, reduced from £210 for an early guilty plea, ordered to make a £30 victim surcharge and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1315.31.
A total sentence of £1485.31 with a collection order of £100 per week to be paid.
In August, two men were sentenced in connection to offences in connection to illicit cigarettes and tobacco at the same premises.
Hemin Rekany aged 32 from Hartlepool Road, Coventry has been given a 12-month Community Order and ordered to complete 80 hours Unpaid Work for selling illicit cigarettes and tobacco from the premise he previously operated on Bolebridge Street.
He was also ordered to pay a contribution towards costs of £400, and Victim Surcharge of £85. All counterfeit and illicit goods were forfeited for destruction.
Diovan Aziz Mahmud, a failed asylum seeker, aged 22 from Brighton Road, Coventry was also given a 12-month Conditional Discharge for possessing illicit cigarettes and tobacco at a premise he was identified in on at Bolebridge Street in March 2017. He was also ordered to pay a Victim Surcharge of £20.
Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards leader Gill Heath said: “The sale of illicit tobacco is a crime which damages communities and harms legitimate businesses and we will take action against traders who knowingly sell it.
“This successful prosecution demonstrates that we take the issue very seriously. We target our resources where we know the sale of illegal and sometimes dangerous tobacco is going on. Keeping it off the streets is good for everyone and remains our number one priority.”
Overall, a quarter of a million illicit cigarettes and 56kg of tobacco were seized last financial year by the county council’s trading standards team as part of a regional operation.
The team received 472 calls from the public to its Fight the Fakes hotline. In total the haul would have fetched around £150,000.
Across the Central England Trading Standards Area (CEnTSA), local teams seized over seven million illegal cigarettes and 478 kg of hand rolling tobacco over the financial year.
This represents a loss to the tax payer of nearly £2million. The total retail value of the illegal goods is estimated to be worth in excess of £3million. The amount of illegal product seized has increased year on year in recent years, with the amount of illegal cigarettes seized last year being almost 30% higher than a record seizure figure the previous year.
The seizures were often well hidden, in sophisticated concealments using electronic magnets controlled by a switch, hydraulic compartments in floors, false back to a fridge, as well as cavity wall compartments. These hiding places are difficult to detect without the aid of specialist tobacco sniffer dogs.
Bob Charnley, chairman of CEnTSA said ‘‘More and more people over the past few years have decided enough is enough and are providing information to trading standards, to stop local criminals selling and distributing illegal tobacco. Combating illegal tobacco has become an increasing priority for trading standards. The illegal tobacco trade has strong links with crime and criminal gangs, including drug dealing, money laundering, people trafficking and even terrorism. Selling illegal tobacco is a crime.”
Illegal tobacco products can usually be easily recognised. They will be very cheap, often less than half the price of legitimate packets and often have foreign writing on them.
Anyone being offered cheap tobacco or any other types of illicit goods should report it to trading standards by calling the CEnTSA’s confidential fakes hotline on 0300 303 2636. They can also call Staffordshire’s Fight the Fakes hotline on 01785 330356.