Preston store sold illicit cigarettes to undercover officers SEVEN times
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Officers made three seizures of counterfeit and incorrectly packaged tobacco products from, or in the vicinity of, the Stokrotka shop, on New Hall Lane, Preston, totalling 1,108 packs of illicit items.
Company's director, Kosrat Abdulrahman admitted the shop had sold and possessed illegal items following seven test purchases over an 18 month period between June 2018 and December 2019, and entered guilty pleas to seven counts on the firm's behalf.
The bench ruled the shop must pay a £1,466 fine, £147 surcharge and £1,300 costs, while Abdulrahman, 32, of Hobgate Road, Wolverhampton, got an eight week curfew and must pay £299.55 costs.
The woman said she had no means of entering the back room and did not have a key, while the man said he didn’t work there but was a friend of the owner.
Officers were unsuccessful in trying to open the door and access the back, despite it appearing to have been used recently as officers saw muddy foot prints on the floor by it.
Two packets of non standardised cigarette packets were found in the shop and seized.
Officers carried out an inspection on July 30 following a test purchase the previous day.
Ms Box added: "The officers in the shop could not gain access to the back door again as the same assistant said she didn’t have a key. Officers had however managed to find and gain access to a sheltered hidden stash of illicit tobacco in the alleyway behind the shop.
"The officers commented that there appeared to be a clear well trodden path from the back of the shop to where the tobacco was stored. In one of the bags found it contained illicit
tobacco packaging and correspondence addressed to the shop address. A total of 884 packets of incorrectly packaged cigarettes were seized -165 of these were
confirmed to be counterfeit Richmond cigarettes."
A similar incident happened on September after a further purchase, but this time a man came out of the locked back room of the shop claiming he was the woman's boyfriend and was just visiting. He was found to have a car key on him he claimed was for a friend's car.
Officers found the vehicle parked near the shop and found 214 packets of illicit cigarettes from the boot - 60 of them counterfeit Richmond packets.
Miss Box added: " This seems to show a reasonably well planned set up with changes made to the storage place of the tobacco following each seizure.
"Multiple shop assistants have been seen to be involved and the cash from the purchases seen to have been placed into the shop till.
"Company director Mr Abdulrahman was made aware of the circumstances in the correspondence sent to him in August 2019, yet a further seizure and test purchases
took place not long afterwards.
"The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Regulations set out stringent rules for cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco for how such a product may be packaged which includes for example the colour of the packet, the size and the font of used for any text on the packet.
"These regulations aim to make smoking less attractive to adults and children but as illicit packets tend to be found to be sold at around half the price of legitimate packets this makes the habit more accessible.
"The lower price also makes it difficult for law abiding retailers to compete and deprives the taxman of duty and VAT of over £8.50 per pack of illicit cigarettes and £12 per pack of tobacco sold.
"And whilst smoking is an unhealthy habit anyway, there are also further risks with counterfeit tobacco, as unlike their genuine counterparts, there are no controls over what goes into making them, or levels of harmful substances they might contain."
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