An extensive six month Trading Standards operation targeting several Doncaster town centre premises has seen over 47,000 packets of illicit cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco seized and destined for destruction.
Six individuals, in separate prosecutions, pleaded guilty to offences that accounted for the total seized which had an estimated street value believed to be as much as £280,000. The loss to the treasury was calculated to be in the region of £330,000, had the illicit product been sold.
The recently concluded operation involved an investigation that culminated in a multi-agency day of action. This saw Asia and European Food City, International Food Store and Warszawa situated on Copley Road and Europa Mini Market located at Holmes Market all caught selling and storing cigarettes that were illegal to sell in this country. They did not comply with current packaging requirements, were likely to fail safety standards or were outright fake.
A large proportion of the haul was found in vehicles and residential premises, including the rented property of one of the six individuals. Sanah Mirza’s home in Edenthorpe was searched following his arrest and in excess of 33,000 packets of cigarettes were found in his garage. Sheffield Crown Court ordered the illicit stash to be destroyed when Mirza, a worker at Asia and European Food City, pleaded guilty to offences. He was sentenced to complete 250 hours unpaid work and to pay a £2,000 contribution towards prosecution costs.
Other individuals sentenced for offences stemming from the operation included: Rizgar Aziz (Europa Mini Market) and Bahman Safee (Warszawa) who were both given suspended prison sentences after the court had been made aware that they had previous convictions for committing similar offences. Both were ordered to complete 120 and 180 hours unpaid work respectively, with Aziz also being required to participate in a rehabilitation programme to help change his offending behaviour. Between them they were also required to pay a total of £4255.72 towards the Council’s cost to bring the prosecutions.
Bestoon Ali Mahmood admitted selling cigarettes at Asia & European Food City and was fined £1,080 when a previous similar conviction was taken into consideration, while Sarwan Mauloud of International Food Store was fined £180 and Ali Mahmoodpur a worker at Europa Mini Market was fined £200. All six were ordered to pay a victim surcharge.
Illicit tobacco products are of particular concern in Doncaster where the Tobacco Alliance is working hard to tackle public health concerns.
Dr Rupert Suckling, Director of Public Health at Doncaster Council, said: “The supply of cheap cigarettes is undermining the ongoing effort to get people to stop smoking, particularly young people who might then go on to become addicted to a habit that prematurely kills over half of its users. The fact they are illicit also increases the risk that there are additional toxic elements increasing their risk further.”
Peter Dale, the council’s Director of Economy and Environment, said: “Illicit trade has a significant negative impact on legitimate businesses that comply with the law. Complying with the law is not an option, it is an absolute requirement. The Council will therefore continue its robust approach and will pursue those who flout the law until we achieve 100% compliance.”
If you want to report a trader directly to the Trading Standards team who you believe is selling illicit tobacco products or alcohol, please call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.