A Grimsby shop owner has been handed a suspended prison sentence after he was caught hiding almost a quarter-of-a-million illegal cigarettes.
Karzan Osman Salim, 31, owner of Arian News in Freeman Street, Grimsby, pleaded guilty to several offences relating to the trade in illicit tobacco at Grimsby Crown Court.
It was the third trial in a month brought by North East Lincolnshire Council’s Trading Standards team and comes as part of an intelligence-led operation against the sale of illicit tobacco in the borough.
Almost 250,000 illegal cigarettes and 200kg of rolling tobacco were found in Salim’s shop and a nearby flat when officers from the Trading Standards team executed a search warrant in September 2015.
A total of 1,080 illicit and counterfeit cigarettes and 2,55kg of illicit and counterfeit tobacco (street value £568 and true value £1,467) were found in the shop.
A total of 245,800 counterfeit and illicit cigarettes, and 200.1 kilos of illicit and counterfeit tobacco were found in a first floor flat near the shop (street value £73,030 and true value £184,304).
Some 10,240 illicit cigarettes were also found at at Salim’s home in Carlton Road, Healing, when it was visited on in March 2016.
It was the largest single haul of illicit cigarettes and tobacco that Trading Standards officers have seized in the borough since they began a crackdown 2014.
Since the crackdown, Trading Standards have seized 459,148 cigarettes and 346kg of tobacco.
Together they have a street value of £143,729 and would cost £344,670 to buy the legitimate equivalent.
Salim pleaded guilty to eight charges of possession of counterfeit goods under the Trade Marks Act, three labelling offences under the Consumer Protection Act, and a further offence concerning cigarettes failing the Reduced Ignition Propensity testing.
He was sentenced to four months in custody, suspended for 12 months, and 160 hours community service for each of the Trade Mark offences (to run concurrently), and six weeks in custody, suspended for 12 months, and 160 hours community service for each of the remaining four charges (all to run concurrently).
Meet Yoyo and Scamp the sniffer dogs
The contraband was discovered by Yoyo, a specially trained sniffer dog from BWY Canine (pictured above) and the search was carried out with support from Humberside Police.
Three of the brands seized (Black Mount, Jin Ling and fake Mayfair), posed a serious fire hazard as they failed reduced ignition tests – meaning they burn more quickly and don’t self-extinguish if dropped or if left unattended.
Councillor Hazel Chase, portfolio holder for Safer Communities, Public Protection and the Visitor Economy, said: “Salim was clearly putting people’s lives at risk by peddling fake and illicit cigarettes to his customers.
“Our officers are doing all they can to combat this unlawful trade, protect the public and create a fairer trading environment for honest retailers.
“We know there’s more out there and we will continue our intelligence-led campaign with our partners in the police and other agencies to clamp down on retailers who flout the law.”
Neil Clark, Trading Standards manager at NELC, added: “This is our third successful prosecution in a month for illicit tobacco offences and follows months of dedicated work in our ongoing fight against this harmful trade.
“Quite frankly these cigarettes are killers.”
The council is appealing for people to get in touch if they have information about any people or businesses selling counterfeit or illicit tobacco products in your community.
People can make reports in confidence to North East Lincolnshire Council Trading Standards on 01472 326299 (option 3).