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Man guilty of selling counterfeit cigarettes ordered to repay nearly £50k

Published
25.09.2020

A Gloucester man who was convicted earlier this year of various charges relating to illegal cigarettes and tobacco has been ordered to repay £46,914.41 or face a prison sentence.

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Geoffrey Townsley, aged 60, of Highview, Hempsted, appeared at Gloucester Crown Court yesterday (24 September) for a hearing brought by Gloucestershire County Council’s trading standards service under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The court heard that the financial gain he had made from his crimes amounted to nearly £47,000 and was ordered to repay that amount within three months.

If he fails to do so he will have to serve 12 months in prison and the money would still be payable. He was also ordered to pay the county council £5,890 in costs.

In January this year he had pleaded guilty to various charges in relation to counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco, labelling offences in relation to cigarettes and tobacco as well as dealing in non duty paid products.

Townsley had been given a 10 month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and was ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work over the next 12 months.

It came after Gloucestershire Trading Standards received a tip-off that Townsley was involved in the sale of cigarettes and tobacco and was storing the products at his home address, another property in Cecil Road, Gloucester, and in a van.

In February 2019 warrants were executed by trading standards officers, officers of the HMRC and Gloucestershire Police and nearly 3,000 packets of cigarettes and more than 250 pouches of hand rolling tobacco were found.

Trading standards estimated that the seizure was worth just over £13,000 had it been sold on the street and the evasion in duty on the cigarettes and tobacco was worth £20,555.33.

Cllr Dave Norman, cabinet member for trading standards, said: “This action taken once again shows that where appropriate, our trading standards team will use all legal means at their disposal to reclaim the ill gotten gains of people’s criminal behaviour.

“Mislabelled and fake branded cigarettes and tobacco is a blight on our communities, it is undeclared and tax is not paid so it takes money away from our vital public services. I would urge anyone who has information regarding the illegal tobacco trade to contact our Trading Standards team via the Consumer Advice Service on 03454 04 05 06 or email the team on tradingstandards@gloucestershire.gov.uk.”

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