Illegal tobacco sales continued in spite of warning
On 11th April 2016, Rashad Abdulla Mohammed, 26, appeared before Cheltenham Magistrates and entered guilty pleas to offences concerning the sale and possession for sale of illegal tobacco.
Mohammed traded as Eastgate Off Licence, 138 Eastgate Street, Gloucester, between February and June 2015.
In February 2015 officers from Gloucestershire County Council Trading Standards Service made a test purchase from Mohammed's shop and purchased 50g of Cutter's Choice tobacco, labelled in a language other than English, for £9, about half the cost of legal tobacco. The tobacco didn't carry the correct warnings in English, wasn't intended for the UK market and had no duty paid on it.
In March 2015 trading standards officers carried out an inspection at the shop and with the assistance of a tobacco detection dog. Illegal tobacco was found behind a remote controlled false wall in the toilet room specifically constructed to conceal illegal tobacco.
The false wall was tiled with the same tiles as the rest of the room effectively concealing its location. In total, around £900 worth of illegal tobacco was found including 36 packs of counterfeit Mayfair cigarettes. Other brands seized included Winston, Fest and Minsk cigarettes, which are not legally sold in the UK.
Mohammed was formally interviewed about the matter but, in spite of this, sales of illegal tobacco continued from the shop. Trading standards officers were able to make another five test purchases between April and May 2015 during which Marlboro cigarettes were purchased for £5, again not labelled in English without the correct warnings and without UK duty being paid. Legal Marlboro cigarettes cost in the region of £9.
At his first court appearance, Mohammed pleaded not guilty, but before his trial scheduled for 11th April 2016, he changed his plea to guilty to eight offences under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and the Trade Marks Act 1994.
Mohammed was given a 12 month community order requiring him to undertake 180 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £750 towards prosecution costs and pay a £60 victim surcharge. The court also ordered the seized illegal tobacco be forfeited for destruction.
Cllr Nigel Moor, cabinet member for fire, planning and infrastructure, said: "I would urge those who purchase illegal tobacco from these premises to reconsider, because you are supporting a criminal enterprise. The money you spend does not support our community and you are damaging local legitimate traders, as well as potentially your health."
"If anyone has information about illegal tobacco in their area then we would encourage them to report it anonymously by contacting the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06, or via the link on the contact page of the trading standards website, http://glos.tradingstandards.uk."
Sarah Scott, Director of Public Health, added: "Smoking illegal cigarettes is an extremely dangerous thing to do, and we would encourage those who do want to smoke to always purchase legitimate cigarettes that have been screened.
"If you want help to stop smoking contact Gloucestershire Stop Smoking Service on 0300 421 0040 or visit www.stopsmokingglos.nhs.uk."