A Stoke-on-Trent shopkeeper found in possession of illicit tobacco has been ordered to carry out 270 hours unpaid work and fined £1,000.
North Staffordshire Justice Centre heard how Piccadilly Mini Market, on Piccadilly, in Hanley, was searched by the city council’s trading standards team in May 2018, with support from the police and fire service.
During the search, they uncovered a hidden void on the first floor – accessible only by climbing down 10ft on a ladder from the second floor. Inside the confined space were 1,628 packets of illegal cigarettes and 216 pouches of illegal hand rolling tobacco, with a combined street value of £16,862.
The search followed two test purchases of illegal tobacco by trading standards on the premises in March 2018 and May 2018.
34-year-old Ali Mohammed Ahmed, who owned the shop, pleaded guilty on Friday, August 16 to ten offences – three relating to the sale of counterfeit tobacco and cigarettes, five for the possession for supply of counterfeit tobacco and cigarettes and two for possession for supply of tobacco products not in standardised packaging.
He was sentenced to a 12-month community order with a requirement that he complete 270 hours of unpaid work, a six-day rehabilitation requirement activity and pay £913 costs and an £85 victim surcharge.
Following the prosecution, Councillor Randy Conteh, cabinet member for communities and safer city, and chair of Smokefree Stoke-on-Trent, said: “The sale of illicit tobacco is a crime which damages communities and harms legitimate businesses and we will take action against traders who knowingly sell it.
"Counterfeit tobacco is damaging to people's health and can undermine efforts to help people quit smoking as it is usually sold at a cheaper price. People who deal in illegal tobacco are more likely to encourage others – especially children and young adults – to smoke, and they are also harming legitimate businesses and damaging communities.
“We’re pleased with the outcome of this latest prosecution. This case showed a sophisticated level of concealment, making it an excellent example of how multi-agency working with our partners in the police and fire and rescue service has led us to a successful prosecution. We will continue to work with them to ensure we take action against any trader found to be selling illegal tobacco in the city.”
Anyone with information about people or businesses selling counterfeit or illicit tobacco can report it by calling the fakes hotline on 01782 238444.