A former shop owner in Banbury has pleaded guilty to purchasing smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes following an investigation by Oxfordshire Trading Standards.
Alan Ali Mohammed – former director of Tainal Limited, trading as International Supermarket, at 33 to 34 High Street – admitted to nine offences at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Monday. He will be sentenced at Oxford Crown Court on June 17.
The shop is now trading under new ownership.
On October 23, 2017, trading standards officers inspected the store with a tobacco detection dog where 4,240 illegal cigarettes were discovered in a black holdall on the top of a unit in the rear storeroom. The cigarettes consisted of seven different brands, labelled in three different languages. Whilst none of the cigarettes had been UK duty paid, Mayfair cigarettes were subsequently determined to be counterfeit.
On December 17, 2017, a test purchase was made of L&M Link cigarettes for £6 from International Supermarket. They were retrieved from under the counter. The officer later returned and made a further test purchase of three packets of L&M Link for £18. On February 24, 2018, another test purchase was made for a pack of Kent cigarettes, which were sold to an officer for £6.
Mohammed, 33, of Western Crescent in Banbury, told officers he’d bought a bag of cigarettes for £300 from an Eastern European man. He said he did not read the labels, did not count the packets and did not question their origin. He claimed he intended to sell the cigarettes to his staff for £5 to £6 each. He put the bag on the shelf in his shop and forgot about them.
Jody Kerman, Oxon County Council’s Trading Standards operations manager, said: “We are very concerned about the sale of cheap, illegal tobacco and are working very hard to reduce its availability in Oxfordshire”.
Tobacco fraud is reported to cost the UK around £2.5 billion a year whilst treating smoking-related illnesses costs the NHS over £2 billion annually.
Retailers selling illegal tobacco could lose their alcohol licence, face unlimited fines and be jailed for up to 10 years.
Anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco should contact 0300 999 6 999 or report it anonymously via the website www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk
The Banbury Guardian reported how the shop’s new owner was allowed to keep the shop’s licence to sell alcohol after arguing the offences had been committed by the previous owner, and when the International Store was publicly named as the source of the cigarettes that had been discovered by a tobacco sniffer dog.