Illicit tobacco Slough Council

Source: Slough Council

A retailer in Slough has to pay more than £5,000 after illicit tobacco was discovered in his store.

Mohammed Imran Naseer, the director of Brothers Pan Corner Limited shop in Slough at the time of the incident, appeared at Reading Magistrates’ Court on Friday 9 April and admitted 11 charges of being in possession of the illegal tobacco on 8 and 15 February 2019 following an investigation by Slough Council Trading Standards and Thames Valley Police.

Slough Council’s trading standards team conducted a test purchase and received illegally packaged tobacco from the store in February 2019. A week later the team returned with Thames Valley Police tobacco sniffer dogs and illicit tobacco was discovered.

The standards officers seized 1,200 packs of cigarettes, 1,000 pouches of smokeless tobacco and 60 pouches of hand rolling tobacco.

According to Slough Council, much of the seized tobacco bore either non-English labelling, non-statutory health warnings or was in non-plain and branded packaging. Criminal offences for these contraventions fall under the Trade Marks Act 1994, Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 and the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015.

Naseer was fined £1,000 by magistrates, ordered to pay £4,000 costs and a victim surcharge of £110. The case had been delayed from the date of discovery to the court hearing due to the pandemic.

Zero tolerance

Dean Cooke, senior trading standards officer, said: “Possessing illegal tobacco may appear to be a victimless crime. However, it is the genuine law abiding traders of Slough that suffer, as they are continually being undercut by unscrupulous competitors.

“We can only have a level playing field when all the businesses in the borough meet their legal obligations. We hope this will serve as a very real warning to others selling illegal goods in the borough we have a zero tolerance to this kind of behaviour.

“The council will pursue prosecutions and the financial punishments can be considerable. We will continue to monitor and act on intelligence regarding illegally imported tobacco being sold to the public.”

JTI’s fiscal & regulatory affairs manager Ian Howell said: “We welcome Thames Valley Police and Trading Standards’ joint investigation and support their decision to take active steps to crack down on the illicit trade in the local area. Illegal tobacco is not a victimless crime - it not only takes footfall and revenue away from legitimate retailers but it also facilitates the supply of tobacco to underage people and supports organised criminal networks. Despite the lockdowns and ongoing travel restrictions, the illegal trade remains a serious problem across the UK.

“If retailers know, or suspect, illegal tobacco is being sold in their area, they should call HMRC’s Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887, Trading Standards on 0808 223 1133 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111. Retailers can also visit and use the Don’t Be Complicit In Illicit’s microsite’s quick and easy ‘report’ function.”