A Birmingham trader who was found to be selling illicit tobacco has been given an eight-month suspended jail sentence at Birmingham Crown Court today (20 October).
Pritpal Singh Khurana, 36, of M&S News, 62-64 Herrick Road, Saltley, pleaded guilty to 10 offences under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, Tobacco Products (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale) (Safety) Regulations 2002 and Trade Marks Act 1994.
As well as the sentence, which was suspended for two years, he was also ordered to carry 250 hours of unpaid work within the community. The court ordered the forfeiture of the items seized.
Birmingham City Council brought the case against Khurana following a raid of the premises in October 2014, as part of a national crackdown on the sale of illicit tobacco – products which have either been smuggled into the country, illegally produced or for which no duty has been paid.
Trading Standards officers, working with local police teams, seized 6,328 packs of illegal cigarettes worth nearly £50,000 during an inspection of the premises on 8 October 2014. Most of these were found by sniffer dogs hidden behind a false wall and ceiling and underneath a false floor in a toilet.
Officers also seized 692 packets of illegal rolling tobacco, estimated to be worth more than £10,300 and consisting of counterfeit products and some which were genuine but intended for duty-free sale only, and two bottles of Bacardi Rum that did not have original non-UK duty labels, which were not valid for sale in the UK.
The cigarettes and tobacco seized included counterfeit versions of established brands such as Benson & Hedges, Mayfair and Golden Virginia and cheap foreign labelled products that breached consumer protection legislation and were non-duty paid, which cannot be legally sold in the UK. The statutory health warnings on the packaging were not in English or did not include photographic images.
As a result of this seizure, a review of M&S News Convenience Store’s premises licence was heard by the city council’s Licensing Sub-Committee on 8 December 2014, who decided to revoke it. The business now continues to operate under a different licence-holder.
Cllr Barbara Dring, Chair of the city council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “The detection dogs can find tobacco and cigarettes even if 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. This also has an impact on those businesses that are trading legally.”