Mr Hemin Hassan Abass, 37, of Swancroft Road, appeared before a judge recently (21 November) after Coventry’s Trading Standards Team found illegal cigarettes in his van.
The court heard how during a joint operation with the West Midlands Police and a specialist sniffer dog, Coventry’s Trading Standards Team paid a visit to the Easy Shop on Walsgrave Road, searching for illegal tobacco products.
After Officers found nothing in the shop, the dog handler conducted a search on vehicles parked nearby. The dog immediately gave an indication upon sniffing a white van. When officers approached the van, they could see the vehicle contained boxes of illegal cigarettes.
Officers undertook a check on the vehicle, which showed that the registered keeper was Mr Hemin Hassan Abass, who had been behind the counter when Officers arrived at the shop.
When Police Officers questioned Mr Abass about the van, he said he had sold the van recently and no longer had the keys. However, when Police Officers lawfully searched Mr Abass’ pockets, they found the keys to the van.
In total, 3,000 packets of illegal cigarettes were seized, which have a resale value of approximately £12,000.
When interviewed under caution, Mr Abass claimed he did not work in the shop, but was merely looking after it while the owner was away. He told an elaborate story of how he had recently sold the van a week before, but had found a spare key and planned to give it to the new owner, who was due to visit soon.
However, after further investigation, the Trading Standards Team were able to prove this was not true. The District Judge was also not convinced of Mr Abass’ story, saying that he had made up a “fictitious purchaser to try and put investigators off the scent.”
He continued by saying that Mr Abass had “a blatant disregard for the law, aggravated by a previous warning letter of 2013.”
Whilst sentencing Mr Abass, the District Judge said: “Custody is the only sentence that meets the seriousness of your crime.”
As Mr Abass decided to plead guilty to his crime, he was given 81 days imprisonment, suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay a £1,000 fine, a £115 victim surcharge and £1,460 towards costs - £2,575 in total.
Allan Harwood, Trading Standards Manager, said: “Selling illegal cigarettes can put people at risk, as most illegal cigarettes are made of really poor quality ingredients. Some have even been found to contain rat droppings and metal.”
“Thankfully, our team, in partnership with other agencies, can bring criminals who sell illegal cigarettes or tobacco into account. I would encourage all residents to report those involved selling in illegal tobacco. This information is vital and significantly aids our investigations.”
To report the selling of illegal tobacco call Trading Standards on 03454 040506 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org