Retailers caught selling illicit tobacco risk losing their gantries and all support from JTI, the tobacco giant has warned.

The warning followed JTI’s decision to remove a tobacco gantry from a store in Cheltenham - the first time that it has ever done so.

Mohammed Sedoo, owner of Central News in High Street Cheltenham, was charged with five offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994, relating to sales of counterfeit branded tobacco, and seven offences under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and Tobacco Products (Manufacture Presentation and Sale) (Safety) Regulations 2002, related to selling products without the health warning labels required for tobacco sold in the UK.

He pleaded guilty to all charges at Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court, and was sentenced to six months imprisonment at Gloucester Crown Court in July.

Paul Williams JTI’s UK head of corporate affairs said the removal of its gantry was “the most appropriate course of action,” following the conviction.

“A minority of independent retailers who get sucked into this illegal trade are giving honest hard-working retailers a bad name. Customers who buy tobacco products will eventually lose faith and trust in their local independent shop if a perception grows that the independent trade is rife with ‘dodgy cigs’  

“Our commitment to support the actions of HMRC and Trading Standards is steadfast so that we can work together to eradicate this trend. This prosecution coupled with our action clearly demonstrates that this crime does not pay.  Let’s be clear, retailers who sell illegal tobacco risk a criminal conviction, no further support from JTI and where we own the tobacco gantry a risk of losing that too.

JTI also urged retailers aware of illegal tobacco in their communities to call the Customs Hotline on 0800 595 000.