Shopkeeper in court after thousands of illegal cigarettes seized
- Credit: Norfolk County Council
A shopkeeper who admitted being in possession of thousands of illegal cigarettes and half a stone of rolling tobacco has been handed a community service and ordered to pay £1,000.
Appearing at Great Yarmouth Magistrate's Court on Tuesday (June 18) Aram Omar Mohammad was described as "a small cog" in the counterfeit trade who made little gain for himself from the transactions.
Mohammad, 39, of Woodlands, Peterborough, pleaded guilty to nine charges relating to a range of offences including possession and supply.
The court heard an undercover buyer from Norfolk Trading Standards was able to make a test-purchase at 23a King Street in May last year.
It was followed up with a multi-agency swoop at the shop when "a considerable commercial quantity" was seized.
Leona Page, prosecuting for Norfolk Trading Standards, said more than 23,000 cigarettes and 3.4 kilos of rolling tobacco were uncovered in a haul worth nearly £14,000 to the legitimate market and some £9,000 to the Government in tax.
Some of the illicit product was found in bags at the back of the shop and some in Mohammad's car. Around 30pc was said to illegal.
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Genuine tobacco products were also on sale in the shop and properly displayed.
All samples sent for brand testing were found to be illegal and others failed fire-safety tests.
Another brand was found to be genuine but made in Lithuania for the market there, and lacked the proper health warnings in English.
Mrs Page said at £4.50 a packet the cigarettes were "enticing" to young people in Great Yarmouth and that there were "grave concerns" around the safety of some of the unknown components.
Claire Edgeler, for Mohammad, said he was not a wealthy man and had made little money for himself from the sales.
She said: "Somebody asked him if he would like to do a job for him and earn some extra money.
"He agreed and came to Great Yarmouth and was put in this shop. He did not question what he was selling, that is his fault.
"But the takings were taken by other people, not him.
"There is nothing that would put Mr Mohammad as the organiser of this set up, and no financial evidence he is living the high life.
"He would appear to be a small cog in the organisation."
Mohammad, a kebab shop delivery driver, was sentenced to 200 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay costs of £1,000 and a victim surcharge of £85.
Anyone who has concerns that illegal tobacco is being sold in their community can provide information in the following ways:
- By calling the Citizens Advice Consumer helpline (anonymously if you wish) on 03454 04 05 06 or via their online form at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer
- By calling 101 (use 999 in an emergency)
Smokers needing support in quitting the habit can contact Smokefree Norfolk 0800 0854113 or can visit their GP or pharmacy for advice.