Lancashire shopkeeper had stash of illegal tobacco

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A shopkeeper who stashed packs of illicit tobacco and cigarettes in a “cubby hole” at his shop must do 100 hours unpaid work after magistrates heard it was his second offence.

Idris Patel, 41, of Lex Street, Preston, was caught out in two test purchases at Pound Plus on New Hall Lane, Preston, by Lancashire County Council’s Trading Standards.

Preston Magistrates’ Court heard illicit products were seized in an inspection from the cubby hole and under the stairs.

But just five days later he supplied another undercover volunteer with illegal cigarettes.

Patel, who already had a similar conviction from January 2013, pleaded guilty to five offences concerning tobacco trademarks and four of selling products that did not have the required health warnings.

Prosecuting, Nick McNamara described how the shopkeeper had sold volunteers cigarettes at around half the price of legal cigarettes before a full inspection was carried out.

He said: “A cubby hole through the door at the rear of the premises containing the products and a space under the stairs where where further products were being stashed.

“In all 313 packs of tobacco were seized. Of these, a number were found to infringe the Trademarks Act.”

Preston Magistrates’ Court heard Patel had five children aged between seven and 18 and that his wife suffers depression.

He claimed at the time of the offences he was not working at the shop - it was being run by other family, and he is in “financial dire straits”.

Defending, Michael Leach said: “He was under considerable pressure from customers and that was why the stock was there. He apologises for the offence and realises the serious situation in which he has placed himself.”