A man who stashed cigarettes in a drain outside his shop has been fined more than £4,000 and given a six month suspended sentence.
Arifi Ahmedi, 26, owner of AK Mini Market on Freeman Street in Grimsby, was found guilty of eight phoney tobacco related charges when he appeared at Grimsby Crown Court.
Officers from North East Lincolnshire Council’s Trading Standards team found fake cigarettes and tobacco hidden in the shop, in the rear yard or the flat upstairs, on each of their three visits to the premises between July 2015 and March 2016.
Trading Standards also found a hinged flap under a kitchen sink unit where the illicit products could be dropped into the shop below.
Ahmedi had denied the fake products were his and claimed to not know about the secret hatch in his flat, but was found guilty after a four-day trial.
In total, 19,480 counterfeit cigarettes and 97 pouches of fake tobacco were found in Ahmedi’s premises with a street value of £5,110.
The equivalent if bought legitimately, would cost £10,214.
Ahmedi was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for two years, 180 hours of unpaid work, and ordered to pay costs of £4,000 and a £100 victim surcharge.
Councillor Matthew Patrick, portfolio holder for finance at North East Lincolnshire Council, said: “We’ve had a lot of success in the local fight against the illicit tobacco trade since the crackdown began just over two years ago.
“In that time the team has seized more than 633 kg of tobacco and nearly 600,000 cigarettes – almost enough to reach from Grimsby to Lincoln if they were laid end to end.”