Illegal tobacco sales land shopkeeper in court and out of pocket

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A Salford shopkeeper continued to sell illegal and counterfeit cigarettes despite two previous raids by trading standards officers, a court was told.

Officers found counterfeit cigarettes and empty cartons at the Little Hulton shop on the day officers went to caution him for the two previous offences.

Mr Shujat Ali, (39) owner of Super Discount Store, Hulton District Centre, pleaded guilty to two offences under the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 and the Trade Marks Act 1994 for possession of counterfeit cigarettes when he appeared at Salford and Manchester magistrates court on May 20, 2021.

He was fined £780, ordered to pay £740 costs and a £30 victim surcharge. The cigarettes were ordered to be destroyed.

The court heard that trading standards officers and a specialist dog handler visited the business on May 29, 2019, and seized illicit tobacco worth £7,000. They recovered 11,000 cigarettes, 7,780 of which were counterfeit and 107 pouches of hand rolling tobacco, six of which were counterfeit.

Two weeks later on June 11, officers carried out a follow up visit and seized 720 cigarettes, of which 520 were counterfeit, worth £882. All the products were seized and Mr Ali accepted a caution for the offences.

On November 28, 2019, following more public complaints about the shop, trading standards officers and a specialist dog handler visited the premises and asked Mr Ali if there were any illegal products on site, to which he replied no.

The premises were searched and a sleeve of Richmond King Size branded cigarettes, containing 200 cigarettes, was found in a box of umbrellas in the back storeroom.

Mr Ali was asked to explain them and suggested they were left over from the previous seizure of illicit cigarettes and that he had stopped selling them since then.

However, a further 17 outer cartons from illicit cigarettes were also found in the store room. The products were later confirmed as counterfeit.

Mr Ali admitted he had been selling illicit cigarettes daily and had continued to do so since trading standards last raided his shop in June 2019.

Officers identified £1,694.22 of cash on the premises and this was seized by trading standards as proceeds of crime and has since been forfeited.

Mr Ali failed to attend two interviews to explain his actions and made no contact with trading standards.

Speaking after the case, Cllr David Lancaster, lead member for environment and community safety, praised members of the public who had alerted trading standards.

He said: “This is great work by council officers. Selling counterfeit tobacco deprives the country of taxes to fund vital public services like the NHS and undermines all our attempts to help people quit smoking to protect their health.

“In 2020-2021 Salford City Council’s trading standards team seized 110,0990 cigarettes and 875 pouches of illegal and counterfeit tobacco. We will not hesitate to take action against anyone who thinks they can flout the law in this way.”

Andrea Crossfield, of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Illegal tobacco might seem like a bargain, but it comes at a high price to our kids and our communities.

“Legal or illegal, all tobacco contains a toxic cocktail of chemicals which will kill one in two long term smokers. Illegal cigarettes are often responsible for getting children started on this lethal addiction, because of their availability at pocket money prices and because dealers don’t care who they sell to.

“The crackdown on illegal tobacco is part of wider efforts to cut smoking rates and make smoking history for future generations.”

Salford City Council supports The Keep it Out campaign, which reveals the true cost of ‘cheap’ illegal tobacco, including links to organised crime and the devastating impact smoking has on people’s health. The campaign is being run by the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, in collaboration with local authority trading standards teams and enforcement partners in the North.

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