North East Lincolnshire Council

Hefty fine for illicit tobacco dealer

An illicit tobacco dealer who’d been buying cheap cigarettes and tobacco at Latvian markets and selling them in Grimsby has been landed with a £2,537 court bill.

Ralfs Godainis, 39, of Heneage Road, Grimsby, pleaded guilty to six illicit tobacco related charges at Grimsby Magistrates’ Court.

Two of the offences were under the new Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 and the conviction is one of the first in the region for this type of offence.

On 28 June 2016, Housing enforcement officers employed as part of the council’s partnership with ENGIE visited a property under warrant in Hainton Avenue suspected of being an unlicensed house of multiple occupation (HMO).

Officers found suspect cigarettes and tobacco during the visit and contacted colleagues from trading standards. Housing officers served a prohibition notice on the property and it is now a family home.

A total of 7,920 foreign labelled cigarettes and 138 grams of foreign labelled tobacco were found in a locked cupboard.

Godainis was not living at the property but did visit and was the only person with a key to the cupboard.

On 12 July, housing officers executed a warrant to search Godainis’s home in Heneage Road where they found 16,980 foreign labelled cigarettes and 1.15 kilos of foreign labelled tobacco.

The products were hidden in different parts of the house including a child’s bedroom and in the hall.

The matter was again referred to trading standards and when interviewed Godainis admitted responsibility for the cigarettes and tobacco.

He said he bought them from markets in Latvia and brought them back to sell to friends and family.

Godainis told officers he was making between £300 and £400 per week and admitted that he knew it was wrong to do so.

Godainis was given credit for his guilty plea and was told by the Chair of the Bench that these were serious offences that could have attracted a prison sentence.

He was fined £250 for each of the six offences, ordered to pay costs of £867 and also instructed to pay a £170 victim surcharge – adding up to a total financial penalty of £2,537.

Councillor Hazel Chase, portfolio holder responsible for public protection at North East Lincolnshire Council, said:

“This is one of the first convictions in the region under the new Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016.

“It’s our 11th conviction against illicit tobacco dealers since we began a crackdown in 2014. And in that time, more than 602,000 cigarettes and more than 635kg of rolling tobacco have been taken off our streets.”

Trading standards manager Neil Clark added:

“I’m grateful to the work of our partners in this case, by pooling resources and sharing intelligence we’re sending a clear message that we won’t tolerate the trade in illicit cigarettes and tobacco.

“You can help make a difference by reporting it to us. Report it in confidence by calling trading standards on 01472 326299 (option 3).”

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