Trading Standards clamps down on illegal tobacco trade in Gloucester
FOUR men have pleaded guilty to selling illegal tobacco products from General Store in the city’s Station Road - as Gloucestershire County Council’s Trading Standards Service continues to clamp down on the trade.
Najmadin Karim, 38, of Farm Street, Gloucester, Haitham Mahmood, 21, and Jamal Mahmood, 29, formerly of Ryecroft Street, Gloucester, and Ako Ahmed, 28, of Cheveral Avenue in Coventry, admitted charges of selling counterfeit branded tobacco and products without the required health warning labels, at Gloucester Crown Court on Tuesday. A fifth defendant, also from Gloucester, has yet to enter a plea to similar charges.
During the investigation, Trading Standards officers seized a total of 13,289 packs of illegal cigarettes and 2,047 pouches of illegal hand rolling tobacco, worth £53,000.
The prosecution related to 9,674 of the packs of tobacco which, had they been legal, would be subject to more than £40,000 in excise duty.
The illegal products were hidden around the shop.
The case has been adjourned for sentencing at Gloucester Crown Court on 31st October.
Another Gloucester shopkeeper, Daoud Salih Karem, 31, of Vauxhall Terrace, has been charged with selling counterfeit branded tobacco and selling products without the required health warning labels at his store Polski Sklep in Barton Street, Gloucester.
Karem entered a guilty plea to five offences at Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court and will next appear in Gloucester Crown Court on 9th September as confiscation proceedings are commenced under the Proceeds Of Crime Act.
In August last year, Trading Standards officers uncovered 259 packs of illegal cigarettes and 100 pouches of hand rolling tobacco concealed in a false partition in the till area of Polski Sklep.
The officers seized the items, which had an illicit tobacco value of more than £1,700.
Had these been sold as genuine items the excise duty would be in excess of £2,000.
Following intelligence received by officers, a second visit and subsequent seizure was made at the premises in June.
Eddie Coventry, Head of Trading Standards, said: “These cases show that officers will continue to be vigilant in helping to bring those people who engage in this illegal trade to justice.
“The deliberate and dishonest concealment of contraband items is a serious issue and we want to reassure legitimate traders that we are doing everything we can to put a stop to this illegal and damaging activity.”
Cllr Will Windsor-Clive, cabinet member for fire, planning and infrastructure, said: “I'm delighted these investigations have had a positive outcome - we must continue to stamp out this illegal trade for the sake of responsible local businesses and those people whose health is put at risk from illegally imported tobacco."
Andrea Dickens, deputy director of Smokefree South West, said: “The work being undertaken to crack down on the illegal tobacco trade across our region is vital to ensuring tobacco, which is being sold at pocket money prices, is taken off our streets.
“Gloucestershire Trading Standards is key to this work and we are delighted that its efforts are yet again bringing to justice people who are dealing in illegal tobacco in the county.”
If residents have any concerns about tobacco products being sold at this shop, or any others in the county, they should report it to Trading Standards through Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 04 05 06 or if they wish to remain anonymous by using www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk
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