A Hereford retailer has been convicted at Hereford Magistrates Court following the seizure of a large amount of illicit tobacco.
Herefordshire Council’s trading standards seized nearly 90,000 non-duty paid smuggled and counterfeit foreign labelled cigarettes with a street value of over £13,000 from Mohammed Bakhtyer of European Fresh Foods at 141 Eign Gate in Hereford.
Mr Bakhtyer, who pleaded guilty to having the illicit tobacco in his possession to sell, was given a four month suspended prison sentence and ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work and pay £1,169 in costs. The court also ordered the seized cigarettes to be destroyed.
During the raid, which took place earlier this year, trading standards and West Mercia Police discovered illicit cigarettes hidden in a secret compartment under the counter and inside crates of soft drinks. Mr Bakhtyer had also constructed a false wall in the stock room to conceal vast amounts of illicit cigarettes. When officers gained access behind the wall, they discovered over 4,000 packets ready to be sold to the public.
Mike Pigrem, Herefordshire Council’s head of trading standards and licensing, said: “The sale of illicit tobacco is a serious problem throughout the UK and the effects on both local business and the chancellor through lost tax revenue is huge, with approximately £26,000 of duty being lost in this instance alone. In addition, the cigarettes found for sale were, unbeknown to customers, fabricated brands manufactured with dubious quality control, which can cause untold health problems potentially far worse than smoking legal tobacco.”
Patricia Morgan, Herefordshire Council deputy leader, said: “Herefordshire Council fully supports trading standards and the police in cracking down on the illegal tobacco trade in our county. Not only is peoples’ health at risk but local legitimate businesses are being put at an economic disadvantage and incurring significant losses to their trade. The protection of peoples’ health and wellbeing together with supporting the local economy are key priorities for the council.”
If you have any information on people dealing in illegal tobacco products, please contact trading standards on 01432 261761.