Shopkeeper Sentenced For Illegal Tobacco Offences

A Brierley Hill shopkeeper who avoided paying more than £10,000 in tax on around 1,500 packets of illegal tobacco has been ordered to carry out hundreds of hours of unpaid work.

Dudley Council trading standards officers carried out two inspections on Palace International Mini Market in Brierley Hill High Street, along with specialist sniffer dogs. They uncovered packets of illegal cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco which had not had the appropriate customs and excise duty paid on them.

Boss Sirwan Mohammed Tarwiq, aged 43, was convicted of 14 offences after a trial at Wolverhampton Magistrates Court on October 6.

The first inspection took place in November 2015 and the court heard how trading standards officers, accompanied by police and a tobacco sniffer dog, inspected the shop and discovered 761 packets of cigarettes and 478 packets of hand rolling tobacco which did not have the necessary health warnings and had evaded excise duty, including five brands which were also found to be counterfeit.  The haul was found in a loft room and in a locked briefcase behind the shop counter. The total duty evaded was around £8,600.

A further inspection in March 2016 revealed 271 packets of illegal cigarettes and 59 packets of illegal hand rolling tobacco hidden in a wall compartment, in a ceiling and in the shop’s store room, the court heard. None had the required health markings or had duty paid and three brands were also found to be counterfeit. The duty evaded was around £2,000.

Sirwan Mohammed Tarwiq was found guilty of eight offences under the Trade Marks Act relating to counterfeit products, of four offences under the Consumer Protection Act relating to the lack of health markings and two offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act in respect of possessing criminal property which had evaded duty.

He was given a 12 month community order to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work, a 6 month curfew between 9pm and 7am and ordered to pay costs of £1,500 and a £60 victim surcharge. All the illegal products seized have been sent to be destroyed. Councillor Rachel Harris, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said:

Selling illegal tobacco is a crime and offenders need to know that they will face serious consequences if they choose to deal in illegal products.

“While all smoking is harmful, illegal tobacco is sold at low prices and without the necessary health warnings which makes it easier for children and young smokers to get hooked on smoking.

“Cheap cigarettes also make it harder for people to quit and remain smoke free. It also deprives legitimate businesses of revenue and robs the tax payer of money that could be spent on schools and hospitals”.

Residents can keep illegal tobacco out of their area by informing trading standards on 01384 818871 or by telephoning Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.


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