Great Yarmouth shop worker jailed for selling illegal tobacco
PUBLISHED: 16:49 29 June 2015 | UPDATED: 16:20 30 June 2015
A shopworker who sold counterfeit illegal tobacco has been jailed for eight months by a judge who said he had put people’s health in danger.
Ghazi Ali, 35, was found by Norfolk Trading Standards officers to be selling the tobacco at the International Food Store in St Peter’s Road, Great Yarmouth.
Norwich Crown Court heard on Monday that despite a series of raids by the officers, Ali continued to sell the counterfeit goods which was concealed in “sophisticated” hiding places to try to avoid detection,
David Wilson prosecuting, said tobacco was found hidden in a hole in the wall, under a kitchen unit and under floorboards and a storage heater.
Mr Wilson said that in some of the raids a tobacco search dog was used to find the hidden goods.
The fake brands included Golden Virginia tobacco, Palace cigarettes and L & M cigarettes.
Mr Wilson said: “In each of the searches of International Food Store, concealed areas within the store were used. These were a deliberate attempt to defeat trading standards due to the increasing volume of searches by the department.
He said during the first raid on May 1, 2013 a total of 916 packets of cigarettes were seized along with 59 pouches of rolling tobacco.
On April 10 last year, 292 packets of cigarettes and 44 pouches of tobacco were found hidden under a kitchen unit, and other items seized included 109 packs of cigarettes and 29 pouches of tobacco under the stairs and 208 packets of cigarettes from a storage heater.
There was another raid on June 24, last year, where 180 packets of cigarettes were found under floorboards.
When arrested Ali produced a prepared statement in which he claimed he was a simply an employee and had no knowledge of the illegal tobacco.
The court heard that Ali, of Wollaston Road, Lowestoft admitted 10 charges involving possession and supply of counterfeit tobacco and was also found guilty following a trial of five other charges he faced and was sent to the crown court for sentence by magistrates.
Sentencing him, Judge Stephen Holt said that he had put public health at risk with the fake tobacco and said it was in a different category to counterfeit clothing: “Counterfeit cigarettes on the other hand can bring significant dangers to those that smoke them.”
He said that there was a significant loss to the revenue through the illegal trade and said they posed a danger to people’s health,
“The message has to go out to those that are selling counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco, which is so prevalent in this county, that a custodial sentence is the only sentence that can be passed.”
Andrew Oliver, for Ali, said that he just worked at the shop and others, who were more involved, had gone back to Iraq.
“He has been left holding the baby and has to accept his involvement in it.”
He said that Ali had no ownership in the business and was not involved in hiding the tobacco.
He said he was at low risk of re-offending.
Jon Peddle, of the county council’s Trading Standards team said: “This is a good outcome for people in Norfolk and the result of a thorough investigation by the team.
“Selling illegal tobacco is not a victimless crime and people like Mr Ali who deal in it don’t care who they sell it to - often preying on some of our most vulnerable residents, including children and young smokers.
“We all know that smoking carries high health risks and no parent or carer wants their child to do it.
“So I am pleased the judge has sent out a clear message that this kind of activity has no place in our towns and villages.
“More and more people are refusing to turn a blind eye to it, and communities can help us to keep these kind of businesses off their streets by telling Crimestoppers anonymously or reporting it to citizens advice who will pass information to us in Trading Standards to investigate.”