A retailer who was caught selling illicit tobacco for the second time in 12 months has had his case referred from his local magistrates court to Peterborough Crown Court which has a wider range of sentencing powers.

The rare move means that he now faces a jail sentence for his crimes.

Trading Standards officers uncovered thousands of illicit cigarettes along with illicit rolling tobacco at Taher Ali Haqani’s Ali’s General Store in March, following a previous raid last year for which he had already been found guilty of seven offences. At the time he had been fined £1,200 plus costs and a victim surcharge of £1,860.

This time around he pleaded guilty to six offences including the sale and supply of illicit tobacco not bearing the correct labelling and trademark offences.

At a hearing last week, magistrates at Peterborough Magistrates Court said the case was too serious to be heard there, before committing it to Peterborough Crown Court.

Karen Woods, regulatory officer at Peterborough City Council Trading Standards, said: “This is the second time in 12 months that he has been prosecuted for trading illegal tobacco products.

“This illegal trade has a devastating impact on legitimate retailers, who have to compete with black market traders.”

Jeremy Blackburn, JTI head of communications added: “The powers available to HMRC to tackle illegal tobacco must address the whole range of offenders from opportunists to organised criminal gangs.

“If this type of crime continues, customers will lose trust in their local shops as the false impression grows that all of the independent trade is rife with ‘dodgy cigarettes’.

“Our commitment to support the actions of Trading Standards and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is steadfast and we must work together to take a stand against illegal tobacco. JTI urges anyone with information on illegal tobacco to call the Customs Hotline on 0800 595 000, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”