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Former shop owner fined £4,000 after illicit tobacco find

by Steve Beasant on 11 September, 2015

A former shop owner has been fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £685 in costs and charges after Trading Standards officers from North East Lincolnshire Council found illicit cigarettes and tobacco during three separate visits.

Darbas Mallah Hassan, 28, former owner of the Cornershop Newsagent and Slavika in Freeman Street, Grimsby, pleaded guilty to 10 offences under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and Trade Marks Act 1994 at Grimsby Magistrates’ Court on Friday 4 September 2015. Both shops are now under new ownership.

He was fined £4,000 ordered to pay £465 costs, a £40 victim surcharge and £180 Criminal Court Costs and a forfeiture order was also made by the court for the illicit products confiscated from his premises.

The conviction came after Trading Standards made a number of visits to both shops with detection dogs as part of a crackdown against the sale of illicit cigarettes and tobacco.

Slavika was searched under warrant with a tobacco detection dog on 18 September 2014 when 37 pouches of tobacco and 3,680 cigarettes were found concealed in the rear stockroom. None of the products carried the required health warnings and a number were proven to be counterfeit.

The Cornershop Newsagent was searched under warrant with a tobacco detection dog on 16 December 2014 and a purpose built concealment unit was found in the rear of the stockroom where 12,000 cigarettes and 66 pouches of tobacco were found. A box was also found containing 120 pouches of tobacco. Again none of the products carried the required health warnings and a number were proven to be counterfeit.

Slavika was searched again following further intelligence under warrant with a tobacco detection dog on 5 May 2015 when a stash of illicit cigarettes and rolling tobacco was found concealed inside a manhole cover in the rear yard of the shop. Two bin liners were found down the drain containing 38 pouches of tobacco and 2,100 cigarettes.

In mitigation, Hassan said he was not aware of the products but as the owner of both businesses at the time he was ultimately responsible for what was found in his shops. He told the court he has since sold both shops.

Sniffer dogs Phoebe, Scamp and Yoyo, provided by BWY Canine, helped uncover the hidden contraband.

The street value of the goods seized totalled £1,573 and the true value of the products if bought legitimately is £3,950.

Haval Twfiq Sidiq, a former manager of The Cornershop Newsagent, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to an offence under the Consumer Protection Act and three offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994 following the search carried out on 16 December 2014. He was fined a total of £350 plus £100 costs and a £20 victim surcharge.

Neil Clark, community protection manager responsible for Trading Standards at NELC, said:

“Honest retailers should not be in a position where they’re competing with those selling cheap, untaxed and smuggled tobacco products.

“In this case the shop owner ignored our warnings and we had no choice but to take him to court.

“Since Trading Standards started cracking down on illicit tobacco sales last September, we’ve seized 87,270 cigarettes and 82.5kg of tobacco – with a genuine value of £70,011 and a street value of £27,647.

“We appeal to anyone to get in touch if you have information about any people or businesses selling counterfeit or illicit tobacco products in your community.

“Report it to North East Lincolnshire Council Trading Standards on 01472 326299 (option 3).

Alternatively, ring Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or complete the online form at”

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