A Birmingham trader, who was found to have illicit tobacco in his shop, has been sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, at Birmingham Crown Court today (11 December 2015).
Salam Salih, who owns Supersam Mini Market, 218 Rookery Road, Handsworth, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to four offences under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, Tobacco Products (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale(Safety)) Regulations 2002 and Trade Marks Act 1994.
Salih was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for two trademarks offences (three months’ each, to be served consecutively) and four months’ imprisonment for two offences under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (two months’ each, to be served consecutively). Both sets to be served consecutively (totaling 10 months) and suspended for two years. He was also ordered to complete 100 hours unpaid community work.
Birmingham City Council brought the case against Salih after Trading Standards officers, working with West Midlands Police, raided the premises on 24 November 2014 and found 1,037 packs of illegal cigarettes (20,700 individual cigarettes), with a street value of approximately £4,148.
Most of these (698 packs) were hidden behind a false ceiling in the cellar, and sniffer dogs found 339 packs of cigarettes stashed under an ice cream freezer. Officers also seized 212 packets of illegal hand rolling tobacco, with an estimated street value of £1,060.
The haul included counterfeit Amber Leaf and Virginia Gold rolled tobacco and cheap foreign labelled products that breached consumer protection legislation and were non-duty paid, which cannot be legally sold in the UK. There are strict labelling requirements in the UK, including statutory health warnings and photographic images, but on the packs seized these warnings were not in English and did not include photos.
Supplying such goods is considered serious under the Licensing Act 2003 and consequently a review of Supersam’s premises licence was heard by the city council’s Licensing Sub-Committee C on 11 February 2015 who decided to revoke it.
Cllr Barbara Dring, Chair of the city council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “This was a significant seizure, given the amount of illicit tobacco found in this relatively small shop. The business went to great lengths to conceal these illicit tobacco products, which cannot legally be sold in the UK.
“It doesn’t matter how well hidden products may be, detection dogs can find tobacco and cigarettes hidden in the most unlikely places. Offenders need to know that they will face consequences if they choose to deal in these illegal products.
“Those involved in dealing in illegal tobacco may be encouraging people, including children to smoke by providing a cheap source. This activity also brings crime into our neighbourhoods, which is why it is important to clamp down on it, as this also impacts on those businesses that are trading legally.”
Supersam’s has been able to continue trading, but has had to remove all alcohol stock, after their premises licence was revoked by Licensing Sub-Committee C on 11 February 2015.
A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing is due to take place in 2016.
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