Sniffer dog Worthing Council

Source: Worthing Council

A Worthing trader has been fined £1,000 for supplying illegal cigarettes and tobacco.

Shaswar Ranjbari, 24, pleaded guilty at Brighton Magistrates’ Court to offences relating to the possession of counterfeit and foreign-labelled tobacco and the fraudulent evasion of excise duty.

Magistrates decided on a reduced fine based on the trader’s early guilty plea and took into consideration the size of the seizure and his current earnings. He was also ordered to pay costs of £1,957.65 and a victim surcharge of £400.

In September 2022, West Sussex Trading Standards officers carried out a series of tobacco inspections across the Littlehampton and Worthing area, under Operation CeCe - a joint initiative between National Trading Standards and HMRC to tackle the illegal tobacco trade.

Officers, with a search dog, inspected Ranjbari’s premises, Ideal Supermarket in Rowlands Road, Worthing. They did not find any tobacco inside the premises but, at the rear of the shop, was a van and the search dog indicated tobacco could be inside.

A locksmith opened the van and in the back were three bags of tobacco, believed to be illicit. In total, 382 packets of tobacco and cigarettes were seized. Samples were sent to the brand representatives, who confirmed all the products were either counterfeit, or genuine but manufactured to be sold in other countries, or genuine but non-duty paid.

It was also revealed that in 2022 and 2023, Ranjbari, of Lumley Road, Skegness, Lincolnshire, applied to Worthing Borough Council for an alcohol licence, but Trading Standards and Sussex Police objected on both occasions. The application in 2022 was withdrawn. In 2023, the application, in the name of Ali’s Supermarket Ltd, was rejected by Worthing Borough Council’s Licensing and Control Sub-Committee, who did not believe Mr Ranjbari would be able to uphold the licence objectives.

West Sussex Trading Standards team manager Peter Aston said: “Cheap and Illegal tobacco is a serious concern to public health and Trading Standards is working to disrupt the harmful supply into West Sussex communities. Working with partner agencies and specialist detection dog teams we will continue to take robust enforcement action against any shop selling illicit tobacco in West Sussex. We are committed to safeguarding the health of our communities and ensuring that those who flout the law face the consequences, whilst supporting honest businesses who do comply with the regulatory framework around tobacco products.”