Pair handed prison sentence for their part in local illicit tobacco trade
A former shop owner and a former shop manager have been handed prison sentences as part of an ongoing crackdown against the sale of illicit tobacco products in North East Lincolnshire.
North East Lincolnshire Council’s Trading Standards team brought the prosecution against Jafar Omar Ali, 36, former owner of Discount Convenience Store in Freeman Street, Grimsby, and Mohammed Hasan Zadeh, 30, former manager of the store.
It was the second trial in a week for such offences at Grimsby Magistrates’ Court and was the result of an intelligence-led operation against the sale of illicit tobacco in North East Lincolnshire.
Since the crackdown began in September 2014, 48 multi-agency searches have been carried out with support from Humberside Police and other enforcement agencies. The total number of visits to premises in the hunt for illicit tobacco products, including routine inspections by Trading Standards officers, in that time is 160.
Both defendants were found guilty of four offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994 and one offence under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 at Grimsby Magistrates’ Court on Friday 8 July.
Discount Convenience Store was searched under warrant by Trading Standards officers with support from Humberside Police and specially trained detection dogs on 8 September last year.
Sniffer dogs Yoyo and Scamp, provided by BWY Canine, found 15,320 illicit cigarettes (including 4,720 counterfeit) and 11.85 kilos of tobacco (including 1.85 kilos counterfeit) hidden in a purpose built shelter outside the rear door of the shop.
The street value of the goods seized totalled £4,606.50 and the true value of the products if bought legitimately is £11,638.50.
Both defendants had pleaded not guilty to the offences and said the illicit products had been left there by a third party and they knew nothing about them. They are no longer involved in the ownership or management of the shop.
Ali, of King George Street, Shotton, Deeside, was sentenced to six weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months, and 140 hours unpaid work on a Community Service Order. He was also ordered to pay £800 towards costs and a victim surcharge of £80.
Zadeh, of Oxford Street, Grimsby, was sentenced to six weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months, and 140 hours unpaid work on a Community Service Order. He was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £80.
Cllr Hazel Chase, portfolio holder responsible for public protection at North East Lincolnshire Council, said:
“We won’t hesitate to take legal action against retailers who disregard the law by selling fake and unregulated tobacco products.
“This was the second prosecution in a week for these types of offences and there will be more in the coming months.
“We have a responsibility to take a tough stance against the trade in illicit tobacco, it harms our communities and has been shown to provide a lucrative source of finance for other criminal activity.”
Neil Clark, community protection manager responsible for Trading Standards at NELC, added:
“In passing their sentence, magistrates stated that they found the offences to be ‘of a serious nature as the defendants were placing untested products onto the market which had the potential to be injurious to the health of the public in North East Lincolnshire.’
“We appeal to anyone to get in touch if you have information about any people or businesses selling counterfeit or illicit tobacco products in your community.
“Report it in confidence to North East Lincolnshire Council Trading Standards on 01472 326299 (option 3).”
Since Trading Standards started cracking down on illicit tobacco sales in September 2014, they’ve seized 458,728 cigarettes and 345.988 kilos of tobacco (6,920 pouches). Together they have a street value of £132,177.40 and would cost £321,545.20 to buy the legitimate equivalent.