A shopkeeper has been ordered to pay more than £1,500 after hundreds of packs of illegal cigarettes were found at his business.
Officers from Durham County Council’s trading standards team seized more than 3,200 counterfeit and illicit cigarettes and 1.2kg of illicit rolling tobacco during an inspection of The Winestore, in Blackhall, in August last year.
The stash, which was unearthed following a complaint about the business, was being stored in wine boxes next to the counter where it was accessible to the public.
The packs and sleeves, which included brands such as Mayfair, Richmond, Lambert and Butler and Superkings, were clearly counterfeit as they did not contain the appropriate health warnings.
The owner of the business, Kamran Adil, was present when the inspection took place but refused to attend an interview with officers from trading standards.
He instead submitted a prepared statement which claimed that the cigarettes were for his own use and not for supply to others. However, a search of Adil’s mobile phone found text messages indicating that he did intend to sell the counterfeit items.
Adil, 47, of Halterburn Close, Gosforth, pleaded guilty to five counts of possession of counterfeit cigarettes in relation to 520 of the cigarettes that were seized.
In mitigation, his solicitor claimed that the goods were not on display and that Adil was himself a heavy smoker who had been under considerable pressure in his personal life at the time of the inspection.
She also stated that follow-up inspections had taken place in December 2017 and February 2018 and there had been no issues.
In sentencing, magistrates at Newton Aycliffe took into account a previous prosecution for a similar offence in 2016, when Adil had been convicted of three offences under the Consumer Protection Act 1987.
On that occasion, he had been fined and ordered to pay costs after cigarettes and rolling tobacco with a street value of up to £8,000 had been seized from his business.
Magistrates acknowledged that the recent seizure was less than that of the 2016 prosecution but considered that while the first offence could be seen as a mistake, the second was less likely to be so.
Adil was fined £750 and ordered to pay £722.77 in costs and a £75 victim surcharge.
Owen Cleugh, Durham County Council’s consumer protection manager, said: “Our officers will continue to investigate anyone selling illegal tobacco from either retail or domestic premises.
“Sellers found to be breaking the law will be brought before the courts and face a fine or even possible imprisonment.”
Anyone with information about the possible supply of illegal tobacco can contact the confidential reporting line on 0300 999 0000 or visit www.keep-it-out.co.uk