Chorley shop with notorious illicit tobacco history had a haul of illegal products in hi-tech hidden compartment

A remote control activated compartment was found in shelving units at a shop with a history of peddling cut price smuggled and counterfeit tobacco products.

Monday, 25th January 2021, 12:12 pm

Pictures show the extent people linked to the Eeze Shop, on Chapel Street, Chorley, went to in order to store the products.

Prosecuting, Nick McNamara said: " This particular premise has long been known to Lancashire Trading Standards in connection with the sale of cut price smuggled and counterfeit tobacco products and so receives special attention from trading standards officers.

"Horas Abdulraman is the latest name in a chain of people hailing from the East Midlands to tell officers they have taken over this business. The shop is remarkable from the very limited range of goods it appears to sell. "

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The tobacco haul at the Eeze shop

"The case now before the court begins with an inspection carried out on 15 November, 2018, when two members of staff were present. On that occasion one of the males identified the owner as a person who is previously known to the courts, before changing his mind to identify Horus Abdulraman.

"On that occasion, four packets of cigarettes, none of which were in standardised packaging, were found behind the counter.

"On November 29, 2018, a different trading standards officer entered the store posing as a member of the public and was sold a packet of non-standardised Mayfair cigarettes, which the assistant retrieved from the back of the shop.

"He was charged £5, less than half the price of their legitimate high street counterparts. "

The hidden remote control operated compartment

Officers returned on February 1, 2019, and found a member of staff with a remote control device which deactivated a concealed compartment in the back of a shelving unit.

Inside were 404 packs of cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco, none of which were in the legally required plain packaging, and 237 were also counterfeit.

Shopkeeper Horas Abdoula Abdulraman, 36, of Darby Street, Derby, was later interviewed and denied any knowledge of what was going on at the store, claiming instead that he had agreed to let the business be registered in his name in return for a £600 payment.

He admitted two offences connected with the sale of non-compliant tobacco products and asked for five similar offences to be taken into consideration from four further test purchases between December 5, 2018, January 21, 2019.

The compartment was disguised in this ordinary looking shelving unit

District Judge Jonas imposed six weeks in jail, suspended for two years, with a £115 surcharge and £600 costs.

Mr McNamara added: " The prohibition against supplying tobacco products in other than plain packaging has been in force since May 2017. Cheap packs like these not only undermine any financial incentive to quit smoking, but they also pose unfair competition to law-abiding shopkeepers who find it impossible to trade alongside illegal sellers.

"Then there is the cost to the taxman who, for each pack of illicit cigarettes and tobacco sold, is deprived of £8.50 or £12 respectively in terms of lost duty and VAT – in this case in the order of £4,000 had they gone on to sell all the packs that were seized.

" More than half the packs seized on 1 February 2019 were also counterfeit. This means 237 packs where there are absolutely no controls over what goes into their manufacture or on the levels of harmful substances they are allowed to contain."

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