Shock discovery: illegal tobacco concealed in fuse box
A shopkeeper and two shop assistants appeared before Cheltenham Magistrates on Monday 13th February to be sentenced for selling illegal tobacco from their shop, Eastgate Off Licence in Gloucester.
Officers from the county council’s trading standards team had made seven undercover purchases from the shop between January and May 2016 and five seizures of illegal tobacco. On one occasion they found tobacco hidden in a secret compartment behind a false fuse box at the rear of the shop.
In total they seized 960 packs of cigarettes and 124 pouches of hand rolling tobacco which, if legal, would sell for almost £10,000. It was estimated that the duty they avoided paying on the tobacco amounted to nearly £5,000.
All three of the defendants entered guilty pleas.
The shop owner, Shakwan Ahmed, 32, was sentenced to 16 weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months and was ordered to do 160 hours of unpaid work. In addition he was ordered to pay £1,000 costs and a victim surcharge of £115.
Shop assistant Bryar Salihi, 19, was given a 12 week prison sentence suspended for 12 months, 120 hours of unpaid work with £150 costs and a £115 victim surcharge.
Another shop assistant Karwan Namiq, 31, was given 8 weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 Months, 80 hours of unpaid work with costs of £100 and a £115 victim surcharge.
Cllr Nigel Moor, cabinet member for fire, planning and infrastructure, said: “Our trading standards service has worked incredibly hard to stop the illegal trade of counterfeit tobacco at this store.
“Not only were the shop owner’s actions legally wrong, but morally wrong too as it could have caused significant health issues to anyone buying these illegal products.
“I hope that cases like this act as a warning to traders who are operating illegally. We will bring you to account and see you in court.”
Cllr Andrew Gravells, cabinet member for public health, said: “Illegal cigarettes and tobacco can be even more harmful than legally sold products.
“Counterfeit tobacco will not have undergone quality control, which means we do not know what it contains, making it even more dangerous to smoke.”