Shopkeeper 'tried to blame staff' over illicit tobacco sales

Preston Magistrates' Court
Preston Magistrates' Court
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A shopkeeper whose shop was caught peddling illicit cigarettes tried to blame his staff.

Ali Azadin, 37, who owns Strokrotka on New Hall Lane in Preston, admitted five counts of selling counterfeit and improperly labelled cigarettes, but tried to imply he was not aware of what was going on at his store.

But District Judge Jane Goodwin, sitting at Preston Magistrates’ Court, heard a further offence was committed last month when he had already received his summons and said: “ I reject that as totally implausible”.

Prosecuting for Lancashire Trading Standards, Nick McNamara said a test purchase volunteers was sold two packs of cigarettes for £5 each on January 16 by a man who had left the store and returned with the improperly labelled tobacco.

He said: “ Less than a fortnight later, a different test purchaser went to Stokrotka where he asked for two packets of L&M. The female assistant, believed to be the same female, said that wouldn’t be a problem whereupon a different male, was witnessed to leave the shop and enter a residential property across the road at Lex Street, before emerging, going back to the shop and handing over two packets of L&M to the test purchaser, for which a charge of £10 was made.

“Neither pack was properly labelled.”

A similar incident happened on February 2 and on February 7 the house on Lex Street was raided and officers seized 440 packs of smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes, with a street value of £4,500, from a locked under-stair cupboard.

Azadin, of Meadow Bank, Penwortham, was later interviewed but not before his mobile phone had been forensically examined and found to contain photographs of him both inside and outside the house at Lex Street.

Incriminating photographs of packs and cartons of smuggled cigarettes, seemingly taken within the shop, were also found.

The court took into consideration a subsequent offence in October 2017.

He was given 35 days suspended for 12 months with a curfew, £115 victim surcharge and £1,218.63 costs.