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Landmark court ruling sees North East Lincolnshire Council awarded nearly £300,000

5:00 pm, Friday, 1st March 2024 - 4 weeks ago

Enforcement

A Proceeds of Crime application was heard today, 29 February, at Grimsby Crown Court with a total of £295,021.84 awarded against a Grimsby man, following what was the largest-ever haul of illegal cigarettes seized in North East Lincolnshire.

This is the first time a Proceeds of Crime Application has been brought before the courts for North East Lincolnshire Council since the act was put in place back in 2003.

North East Lincolnshire Council, with the support of Humberside Police, had executed a search warrant at the property in Exmoor Close, Healing, on 21 November 2021. This had followed reports from the public that illegal tobacco was being stored at the premises. Officers found 386,760 illegal cigarettes and 290 pouches of illegal tobacco, worth in excess of £227,000.

As a result, a man and a woman pleaded guilty and were sentenced at a further hearing.

Nabaz Rasul Mohammed, 29, a shopkeeper of Freeman Street, Grimsby, entered guilty pleas to 12 offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994, and a further four offences relating to the packaging of all the products seized. He was subsequently sentenced to 18 months in custody, suspended for two years and to attend 20 days of Rehabilitation Activity.

Meanwhile Angela Ammari, 51, of Exmoor Close, Healing, had pleaded guilty to 11 offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994 relating to 292,000 cigarettes and 50 x 50g pouches of tobacco which were found to be counterfeit copies of genuine brands, at an earlier hearing in October 2022. Ammari was sentenced to four months in custody suspended for 12 months and must also attend 20 days of Rehabilitation Activity.

As a result of those court hearings, the Proceeds of Crime application was today heard, and the award was made against Mr. Mohammed. However Ms. Ammari, was only ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,575 within three months.

Mr. Mohammed was ordered to pay £2,480.38p as a result of the Proceeds of Crime application within four to six weeks. Failure to comply with the order will result in imprisonment.

In addition, total benefit costs were awarded against Mohammed of £293,446.84p. This means any assets that are obtained by him (for example purchases made by him, inheritance, or such things as Lottery wins) would be applicable for seizure as part of the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The money will be split three ways with approximately one third going to His Majesty’s Treasury; one third to the agency responsible for the collection of the monies (often the courts) and one third to the Local Authority bringing the claim and the financial investigation team.

The Proceeds of Crime Act allows the authority to recover assets that an offender may have gained through illegal activity. It can be seen as a deterrent to certain ‘lifestyle’ offences, but also can be used to deprive an offender of any financial gain they may have made from the offences they have committed. It is commonly used for offences such as drug trafficking and money laundering but can also be used for counterfeiting and offences under the Trade Mark Act, such as the ones committed here.

Councillor Ron Shepherd, Portfolio Holder for Safer and Stronger Communities, said: “This is a significant ruling for North East Lincolnshire Council and the partners who have worked hard together for this outcome.

“I would like to thank everyone involved for bringing the case to this point and hopefully in the years ahead we will see more results like this.

“It’s a shining example of how we as a Council will not shy away from prosecuting people who don’t follow the law.

“The authority is committed to cracking down on this kind of criminal behaviour and this hearing illustrates that we will endeavour to bring people to justice.

“It is this councils intention to pursue those who continue to sell counterfeit products through the proceeds of crime act. We are sending a very clear message that we will continue to act financially against those that break the law .”

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