Shopkeeper sentenced for selling illegal tobacco in Belper

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A shopkeeper who sold illegal tobacco from his Belper store has been given a 12-month community order and ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work by Derby Magistrates.

Dilshad Rasheed (39) of Upper Dale Road, Derby, pleaded guilty to nine charges of selling and possessing counterfeit tobacco products, contrary to two sections of the Trade Marks Act 1994 at an earlier hearing and was sentenced on Wednesday, May21.

Derbyshire County Council’s trading standards team brought the successful prosecution against Rasheed following two raids while he was running Belper Mini Market in King Street, last year.

The court heard that trading standards officers carried out a test purchase of cigarettes at the Belper Mini Market in February 2013 after reports that counterfeit cigarettes were being sold.

They bought a packet of 20 Lambert & Butler cigarettes for £3.50, roughly a third of the price of a legitimate packet, and later confirmed them to be counterfeit.

They also bought Golden Virginia and Amber Leaf tobacco that, while genuine, was not for sale in the UK. The pouches were labelled in various foreign languages and therefore did not comply with the UK’s requirements regarding the legibility of health warnings.

Further test purchases were made at the shop in March 2013, including a sleeve of 200 Lambert & Butler cigarettes, costing £30.

After confirmation from a brand representative that the cigarettes were counterfeit, trading standards officers, the police and a sniffer dog visited the shop.

They found cigarettes and tobacco hidden in various locations at the store, including behind the counter, inside a specially constructed steel door, inside a vacuum cleaner and in the boot of a car parked behind the shop.

Further complaints about the shop resulted in trading standards officers visiting the shop again in April.

Cigarettes and tobacco were again found hidden, this time behind a false ceiling, in a hole in the wall behind some skirting board and underneath a panel next to the counter.

Over the course of the raids 11,800 cigarettes (590 packs of 20) and 8.25kg of hand rolling tobacco (165 x 50g pouches) were seized, - a retail value to Rasheed of just over £3,000.

If the goods had been genuine the retail value would have been around £9,000.

Problems arising from this kind of illicit sale include unfair competition on legitimate local traders who pay duty and have to sell products at full price and reducing the effect of the Government’s high-price tobacco strategy aimed at reducing the number of people who smoke.

Sentencing Rasheed yesterday (21 May) Derby Magistrates also ordered him to pay £500 costs and ordered all of the cigarettes and tobacco seized from his shop to be destroyed.

Derbyshire County Council Cabinet Member for Health and Communities Councillor Dave Allen said: “This successful prosecution sends out a clear message to traders who sell illegal tobacco that we will not tolerate it.

“We always act on information that we get and we want these traders to know we will catch them and we will prosecute them.

“We have a duty to protect consumers and legitimate traders as well as doing what we can to discourage people from smoking and we will continue taking a hard line on those people who break the law.”

As part of an on-going crackdown on traders selling illegal cigarettes and tobacco, county council trading standards officers, working with Derbyshire police and Derby City Council trading standards, have seized a total of 876,090 illegal cigarettes and 794,825kg of illegal tobacco, with a high street value of £483,000.