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Two convicted after largest-ever haul of illicit cigarettes in North East Lincolnshire found at Healing home

3:20 pm, Friday, 28th July 2023 - 7 months ago

General

A man and woman have pleaded guilty after North East Lincolnshire Council’s Trading Standards team seized the largest-ever haul of illegal cigarettes in the borough.

Trading Standards officers, supported by Humberside Police, executed a search warrant at the property in Exmoor Close, Healing, on 21 November 2021, following 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.

Sentencing of the pair took place at Kingston Upon Hull Crown Court on Thursday 27 July 2023 by His Honour Judge Thackray KC.

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.

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, at Grimsby Crown Court on 27 June this year.

Upon entry by Trading Standards and Humberside Police during the raid, Ammari immediately told officers where the tobacco products were concealed within the property, taking them to a first-floor bedroom. Within the bedroom, 12 kilos of Turner hand-rolling tobacco and 36,000 cigarettes were recovered.

She then indicated that there were further tobacco products within the loft space of the property. A search of the loft revealed a total of forty-seven boxes and large bags, all containing illegal cigarettes. In total, a further 340,760 cigarettes and 2.5 kilos of tobacco were removed from the loft.

Of the total seized, 292,000 cigarettes, and 50 pouches of tobacco were found to be counterfeit, including brands such as Regal, Richmond, Lambert & Butler, Benson & Hedges, Sovereign, Winston, Marlboro, and Amber Leaf and Golden Virginia tobacco. Had they been genuine, the legitimate value of these goods would have been in excess of £162,372.

When interviewed, Ammari had told officers she had been befriended by Mohammed and over time had looked after him, fed him, and done his washing for him. He had at some point in 2021, asked if he could store some stock in her loft as he had no space in his shop. He initially told her that it was toys and household items, and that it was only later in the year that she became aware of the contents of the many boxes he was placing in her loft.

Mohammed claimed that the boxes were the property of a Romanian acquaintance who had asked him to take care of some household goods and did admit to knowing some of the boxes contained tobacco and cigarettes. He admitted in his interview that he had been delivering them to a variety of locations but denied selling them.

On passing sentence, His Honour Judge Thackray KC told both defendants that the offences they had committed were serious matters which have a significant impact on the community and the public purse, taking important revenue away from hospitals and schools.

He went on to say that both defendants passed the threshold for custodial sentences but taking into account their previous good character and guilty pleas, he sentenced Mohammed to 18 months in custody, suspended for two years and to attend 20 days of Rehabilitation Activity. Ammari was sentenced to four months in custody suspended for 12 months and must also attend 20 days of Rehabilitation Activity.

Dates were set for a Proceeds of Crime Application to be made. It is anticipated that cost applications will be addressed on conclusion of those proceedings.

Leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, Councillor Philip Jackson, said: “This was the largest illicit cigarettes haul our Trading Standards officers had ever seized and I’d like to thank them for continuing to tackle the issue of illegal cigarettes, tobacco and vapes. This is a prominent problem not only here in North East Lincolnshire, but across the country. I am pleased the defendants have been brought before the court and that we have taken these illegal goods off our streets. A special thanks goes to the Trading Standards team, the council’s legal team, and Barrister Michael Forrest of Wilberforce Chambers, without whom this result would not have been possible.”

He added: “Selling illicit and counterfeit goods can damage local businesses and undermine the local economy. Providing cigarettes at pocket money prices encourages people to continue to smoke and makes it easier for young people to access them.

“These types of products do not meet safety standards and are putting lives at risk because they do not self-extinguish if left unattended, therefore, increasing the risk of house fires. Not only has no duty been paid on them but they’ve not been tested to ensure they’re safe. It must also be reiterated, however, that any cigarettes or tobacco, legitimate or not, are seriously harmful to your health.”

You can make a difference by reporting any suspicions you may have to Trading Standards on [email protected] or call (01472) 326299, option 3.

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