On Friday 15 August, Ali Omar Shukir (32) from Hereford was sentenced to 300 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay £750 costs by Hereford Magistrates in a case taken by Herefordshire Council.
In addition to the penalties imposed, all the non-duty paid tobacco products seized, which have a street value in excess of £4,000, were forfeited for destruction. The duty that should have been paid on these goods amounts to over £10,000.
Mr Shukir had taken over the Zabka continental food shop at 16 Eign Gate, Hereford in January this year and immediately started selling illicit tobacco. The illicit goods included fake and unknown foreign brands of cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco. All were non UK duty paid and failed to carry the English health warnings. Smokers were spending money in this shop at the expense of legitimate local retailers.
Mr Shukir has a previous conviction for selling illicit tobacco two years ago.
Following intelligence received, trading standards officers with the assistance of West Mercia Police and a sniffer dog executed a warrant at the shop. They found a large quantity of illegal cigarettes and tobacco on the premises.
The shop was using a sophisticated and ingenious hiding place for storing the illicit tobacco, involving a secret compartment hidden within the building walls, which was covered by kitchen cupboards. This could only be accessed by the use of an electric switch linked to strong magnets.
Mike Pigrem, Herefordshire Council’s head of trading standards and licensing, said:
“The sale of illicit and counterfeit tobacco is disturbingly still prevalent within the county. However, most consumers will be unaware of the effects such purchases will have on the economy, legitimate businesses and the exchequer nor its potential links to serious organised crime.
"Billions in tax revenues are arguably lost each year to the exchequer and the product’s low cost encourages increased and continued uptake throughout the community. Trading standards will continue to tackle such illegal activity and will bring any perpetrators before the courts.”
If you have any information on people dealing in illegal tobacco products, please contact Herefordshire Council’s trading standards in confidence on 01432 261761.