A shop owner who hid illegal tobacco in empty juice cartons has been fined thousands of pounds.
Bolton Council’s trading standards officers visited AH Global Market on Rishton Lane in March this year.
With the help of a specialist search dog, officers discovered 15 packets of hand rolling tobacco and 43 packs of cigarettes hidden within several two-litre juice cartons in the shop’s kitchen and storeroom.
All items were illegal for sale as they were not in plain packaging and did not display the required health warnings. Some of the tobacco was also found to be counterfeit.
When challenged, owner Baker Mahmood claimed he had never touched the tobacco and that had it been in the shop when he first moved in a year before.
However, trading standards officers were quickly able to establish that the tobacco was manufactured just a few weeks previously.
Attending Bolton Magistrates’ Court, Mahmood was ordered to pay a total of £1,350 in fines together with £541 in court costs and a £30 victim surcharge.
His company, Global Market England Ltd, was handed £1,800 in fines as well as a further £541 of costs and a £30 surcharge.
In addition, HMRC has been notified and will issue a separate fine for unpaid tobacco duty.
In light of these offences, Bolton Council’s licensing committee will now review the terms of the shop’s license to sell alcohol.
Illicit tobacco refers to either counterfeit products manufactured illegally, or cigarettes smuggled into the UK in order to avoid excise duty.
Illegal cigarettes pose a serious risk to public health, deny tax revenue to fund vital public services and place legitimate retailers at an unfair disadvantage.
Studies have shown that the availability of lower cost illicit tobacco also acts a disincentive for those considering giving up smoking.
This council has a zero-tolerance policy on illegal tobacco products.
Bolton Council’s Executive Cabinet Member for Environmental Regulatory Services, Cllr Anne Galloway, said:
“This council has a zero-tolerance policy on illegal tobacco products.
“Buying or selling illegal cigarettes is not a victimless crime. As well as damaging public health it also deprives public services of a valuable source of income.
“The public can play a crucial role in the fight against illicit tobacco, and I urge anyone concerned that a shop may be profiting from criminal activity to report it immediately.”
Illegal tobacco sales can be reported anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online.