A number of retailers in Suffolk have been prosecuted for illicit tobacco sales this week, following a string of multi-agency raids across the county.
Tala Tariq, owner of Bargain Point in Lowestoft, was handed a four-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of £6,000 after he pleaded guilty to a number of offences related to supplying counterfeit tobacco products which posed a fire risk, did not include the required health warnings, or comply with UK plain packaging laws.
Suffolk Police said an inspection of his store last year had revealed “large quantities of illegal tobacco,” hidden in various places including the roof void, in bins under the counter and among other stock.
A second raid was carried out a couple of months later when more illicit tobacco was seized.
Jamal Kahlil, mitigating, said Tala had been approached by a man who said he would pay three quarters of his rent for selling the tobacco.
Three further retailers from Ipswich were also handed eight-week suspended prison sentences and fines of between £2,162 and £2,252 this week, after a different set of raids also uncovered illicit tobacco hidden in their stores.
Councillor Richard Rout, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for environment and public protection, said: “There are many immediate and obvious dangers to the sale of illegal tobacco, from personal health to the risk of fire.
“However, these sales are often connected to a larger criminal network dealing in more serious and large-scale crime.
“Such lawbreakers may be well-connected, but this kind of operation shows that we have excellent partnerships who are working hard to disrupt this illegal activity.
“These convictions have made Suffolk a safer place and helped to protect our reputable business owners making an honest living.”
If you have information or suspect anyone of selling illegal tobacco products, you can anonymously report your suspicions to Trading Standards by calling 03454 040506.