Director and company prosecuted after £11k of illegal tobacco seized

A businessman has been prosecuted for continuing to sell illegal and counterfeit tobacco products just nine days after a trading standards raid.

Officers from Salford City Council Trading Standards service found cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco hidden in the basement and a rear room at the shop in Broughton, a court was told.

Nine days later, officers returned, and found more illegal cigarettes behind the till and hidden in a rear room.

In total from the two raids officers seized 12,950 cigarettes, 920 of which were counterfeit and 148 pouches of hand rolling tobacco, also confirmed to be counterfeit. The estimated total street value was £11,256.

Mr Karzan Ibrahim Abdullah, 41, director of Broughton Convenience Store Ltd, Great Cheetham Street East, and the limited company, pleaded guilty to offences under the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 and the Trade Marks Act 1994 for possession and sale of illicit tobacco products when the case was heard at Salford and Manchester Magistrates’ court on December 16.

Mr Abdullah was sentenced to 200 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay costs of £920. The limited company was fined £750 and ordered to pay costs of £920, as well as a victim surcharge of £95. A forfeiture order was also made for all goods seized.

The court heard that trading standards officers and a specialist dog handler visited the business on November 19, 2019. On arrival officers asked a member of staff present if there was any illicit tobacco products on the premises and the member of staff presented a carrier bag containing illicit cigarettes. The member of staff then ran out of the shop, leaving it unattended, shouting “I don’t know, the boss is not here.”

Officers seized 11,210 cigarettes, of which 640 cigarettes were confirmed to be counterfeit and 128 pouches of hand rolling tobacco, which was also confirmed to be counterfeit. While officers were still present, Mr Abdullah, a director of the company, arrived at the shop and admitted he had been selling the cigarettes.

On November 28, 2019, officers carried out a follow up visit. They asked Mr Abdullah if there was any illicit tobacco products in the store and he replied, “You can check.”

The premises were then inspected and 1,740 cigarettes, of which 280 were confirmed to be counterfeit, and 20 pouches of hand rolling tobacco, were found behind the till and in a rear room at the premises. The items were seized.

Speaking after the case, Cllr David Lancaster, lead member for environment, neighbourhoods and community safety praised members of the public for reporting concerns about the business and thanked the Trading Standards team for making the seizures and bringing the prosecution.

“The business owner was well aware of the law but put profit above public safety,” he said.

“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. Illegal tobacco is often responsible for children starting smoking.

“Taking action and stopping these criminals makes our communities safer and I would encourage anyone who has information about the sale of illegal tobacco to contact us or report it anonymously to Crimestoppers.”

Salford City Council, which supports Greater Manchester’s Keep it Out campaign against illegal tobacco, has now written to 233 retailers including newsagents and off-licences that may sell tobacco lawfully to ask for their support in the fight against illegal tobacco.

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 is run by the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, local authority trading standards teams and enforcement partners in the North.