A Bognor shop owner who was found with hundreds of packets of illicit cigarettes that he was selling through his business has been given a suspended jail sentence this week.
Akar Ali, owner of Euro Express in Canada Grove, Bognor Regis, appeared at Chichester Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 14 January 2015 charged with seven offences under the Tobacco Products (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale) Act , two under Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regs, and two under the Trade Marks Act following an investigation by West Sussex Trading Standards officers.
They related to the seizure of nearly 800 packets of cigarettes and nearly 100 packets of rolling tobacco from his business and van over an 18 month period.
Mr Ali, of Huntly Road, Peterborough, was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, ordered to pay costs of £3,572.04 and ordered to pay a £80 victim surcharge.
West Sussex Trading Standards officers launched their initial investigation in October 2013. They seized 216 packets of cigarettes and four packets of rolling tobacco found hidden on shelving behind a cupboard.
In March 2014 officers seized more than 300 packets of cigarettes and 20 pouches of tobacco hidden in a sunken plastic crate in the floor of the stock room following a tip off.
And, in July 2014, officers seized a further 250 packets of cigarettes from a white Mercedes van which was parked outside of Euro Express. Mr Ali confirmed the van belonged to him. The tobacco was found hidden under the passenger seat.
Lionel Barnard, West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for residents’ Services with responsibility for Trading Standards said:
“There is no room in West Sussex for illegal tobacco. It causes the same health problems as ordinary tobacco but is also associated with organised crime, so we will do everything that we can to stamp it out in our communities.
“We are sending a clear message to businesses that where illegal tobacco is found, it will be seized, destroyed and the people who pedal it will be prosecuted as a result.”