A post office owner caught selling illegal cigarettes and tobacco has been handed a 12-week community order and ordered to pay more than £2,200.
Ibrahim Bana, owner of Pound Plus Post Office, 20 Tonge Old Road, was prosecuted by Bolton Council for a total of 17 offences related to illicit tobacco.
Bana pleaded guilty to all 17 offences at Bolton Magistrates Court on June 10.
Magistrates imposed a 12-week community order with a nightly curfew from 9pm to 9am, fined £400, and ordered him to pay £1,720 costs and an £85 victim surcharge.
The successful prosecution comes during Greater Manchester’s Keep It Out campaign, which aims to educate residents and businesses about illegal tobacco and encourage the public to report it.
The items were discovered last September during a multi-agency day of enforcement to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour in the town.
Acting on intelligence, officers from Bolton Council’s trading standards and housing standards teams, Greater Manchester Police and Greater Manchester Fire visited Pound Plus Post Office.
A tobacco detection dog helped officers discover 290 packets of illegal cigarettes and 97 pouches of hand rolling tobacco worth more than £4,355, hidden in various locations within the premises.
The illicit tobacco was found not to be labelled correctly nor was it in plain packaging; the labelling and warnings were not in the prescribed form and so are not legal to sell in the UK.
Upon further investigation, it was discovered that some of the packets and pouches of tobacco were counterfeit.
At the time of the visit, there was one employee in the post office who then contacted the owner, Mr Ibrahim Bana, who arrived some time later.
Bana confirmed that he knew the tobacco was in the shop. He said he had purchased the tobacco and voluntarily surrendered it.
Later, when interviewed by council officers, he said that he had bought the illicit tobacco from a random stranger who called into the shop on two or three occasions.
Bolton Council’s Executive Cabinet Member for Environmental Regulatory Services, Cllr Anne Galloway, said: ““Selling illicit tobacco is a serious crime which affects communities and legitimate businesses.
“Illegal cigarettes pose a serious risk to public health and their supply is often linked to organised crime.
“We work closely with our colleagues in Greater Manchester to reduce the sale of illegal tobacco.
“Offenders need to know that there are consequences if they choose to deal in illegal tobacco and we will prosecute.
“If you have information get in touch, and our teams will investigate.”
Kate Pike, Tobacco Control Lead for North West Trading Standards who is working with Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership on the Keep It Out illegal tobacco campaign, added: “I’m delighted to hear of another successful prosecution for the sale of illegal tobacco in Greater Manchester.
“Illegal tobacco is brought into our communities by organised criminals. It’s sold by people who don’t care who they’re selling to, including children.
“If Trading Standards Officers know where it’s being sold they can tackle it so I’d encourage anyone who is concerned about illegal tobacco being sold in their area to report this anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online at keep-it-out.co.uk.”