A shopkeeper has been jailed for six months and his employee for nine months for possessing and selling illegal tobacco.
Derbyshire County Council’s trading standards team brought the successful prosecutions following raids on two Long Eaton shops – Best Shop in High Street and Family Stores in Tamworth Road.
The shops were run by Ahsan Ebrahimi (27), of Gladesmore Road, Tottenham, London, who admitted at an earlier hearing to three charges of selling counterfeit tobacco, 10 charges of possessing counterfeit tobacco for sale and three charges of possessing unsafe tobacco.
He was sentenced at Northampton Crown Court on Wednesday where he appeared alongside his employee Ali Mahmoudi (23), of Abingdon Street, Derby, who had been working at the Family Stores shop when the offences were committed.
Mahmoudi had pleaded guilty to two charges of selling counterfeit tobacco and four charges of possessing counterfeit tobacco for sale at an earlier hearing.
He was sentenced to three months in prison for those offences and a further six months for other tobacco-related offences brought by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
The trading standards offences date back to June 2013 and relate to the sale and possession of counterfeit cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco with branding including Benson & Hedges, Golden Virginia, Drum, Amber Leaf, Mayfair, Regal and Palace.
Trading standards officers, working with Derbyshire Police, raided both the shops following complaints from the public and police.
In total, 410 pouches of hand-rolling tobacco containing 50g each and 535 packs of 20 cigarettes were seized.
The total selling price of the illegal stock covered by the charges was £4,885, with the pouches typically being sold for £8 each and the packets of 20 cigarettes selling for £3 each.
News of the sentences has been welcomed by council chiefs
Derbyshire County Council’s cabinet member for health and communities, Councillor Dave Allen, said: “This is the latest in a long line of successful prosecutions brought by our trading standards team and the message this sends out couldn’t be clearer.
“If you’re selling counterfeit and unsafe tobacco in Derbyshire we will find out about it and we will prosecute you.
“The public have a key role to play in this and I want people to know that we always follow up on information we receive about illegal traders.
“We want to people to stop smoking and offer help for them to do so, but the sale of cheap, illegal tobacco undermines these efforts.
“We also have a duty to protect the public from unsafe products, as well as protecting honest traders who are trying to make a living but losing out because of these illegal practices.”
Anyone with information about the sale of illegal tobacco should call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service 03454 040506 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.