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Counterfeit cigarette seizure lands trio in court

Published Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Three Coventry men have been sentenced to carry out a total of more than 600 hours of unpaid work for being involved in selling counterfeit and non-duty paid cigarettes and tobacco.

A judge at Warwick Crown Court heard the illegal products were discovered after a small hole in the wall was spotted by Trading Standards officers.

They found that when a pen was pushed into it, it revealed a purpose-built storage area containing 177 packets of cigarettes and seven pouches of hand rolling tobacco. 

Many other illegal tobacco products were seized on numerous occasions from under the counter, in a bin and a fridge. 

The seized items were forfeited as part of the court proceedings and will now be destroyed.

Shopkeeper Kochar Omar Mohammed Kochar, aged 31, of Holbrook Lane, Coventry, owner of the Babylon store in Foleshill Road, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months and required to undertake 300 hours of unpaid work and pay £1,800 towards prosecution costs alongside a victim surcharge.

Mohammed Salah Sardar, aged 30 of Foleshill Road, who was found at the premises twice when illegal tobacco products were seized, was sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months and required to undertake 25 days rehabilitation as he had previously been imprisoned when he was the owner of Babylon. 

He was also required to undertake 200 hours of unpaid work and pay £500 towards prosecution costs alongside a victim surcharge.

Sardar Ahmed Zade, aged 27, of Foleshill Road, Coventry, was found at the premises on four occasions when illegal tobacco products were seized. He was required to undertake 140 hours of unpaid work and pay a victim surcharge.

The offences occurred between February and July 2016 and primarily related to breaches of the Trade Marks Act 1994, with others under The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016. 

Allan Harwood, Trading Standards and Consumer Protection Manager, said: “It is disappointing that the premises of Babylon, Foleshill Road has been the subject of two recent prosecutions for selling illegal tobacco products. 

“The three defendants were involved to varying degrees in what turned out to be a sophisticated operation to sell illegal cigarettes and tobacco. The sale of which caused commercial damage to local traders who cannot compete with selling cigarettes as cheap as £3 a packet. 

“People who deal in illegal tobacco are more likely to encourage others – especially children and young adults - to smoke and whilst all tobacco is harmful, the illegal tobacco market, and in particular the availability of cheap cigarettes, makes it harder for smokers to quit and remain smoke free.

“Trading standards officers are working hard to keep these illegal products off the streets and it was only through the perseverance and expertise of our officers that this prolific seller of illegal tobacco products was finally brought to account.” 

Illegal tobacco products can usually be easily recognised. They will often be very cheap, often less than half the price of legitimate packets or have foreign writing on them.

To report the selling of illegal tobacco call trading standards on 03454 040506 or e-mail: trading.standards@coventry.gov.uk 

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