Off licence conceals illegal tobacco sales
On 15 May 2014, Saman Ahmed Mahmood of Wars Sawa Off Licence, 144-147 Kirkgate, Wakefield was convicted of possession for supply of illicit tobacco and or the keeping of smuggled tobacco on licenced premises, after an investigation by West Yorkshire trading standards service and West Yorkshire Police.
Mr Mahmood was ordered at Wakefield Magistrates Court to undertake 160 hours of unpaid work, costs of £500 were awarded and he was required to pay a £60 victim surcharge.
In September 2013 West Yorkshire trading standards service and West Yorkshire Police undertook an enforcement operation in the Kirkgate area of Wakefield targeting premises believed to be involved in the supply of illicit tobacco. The Wars Sawa Off Licence was targeted after intelligence was received that the premises was selling cheap illicit Polish tobacco. All tobacco products sold in the UK are required to bear specific health warnings in English highlighting the risks associated with tobacco consumption.
West Yorkshire trading standards and the Police utilised a tobacco sniffer dog to identify any concealments of tobacco at the premises. The trained dog identified that there was a concealment of tobacco to the rear of the premises hidden under the floor. When the dog indicated there was tobacco stored at the premises, Mr Mahmood, the owner and the licensee at the premises reluctantly showed officers the remote control device that he used to both access and hide the goods.
The tobacco was seized and an investigation ensued. Mr Mahmood’s explanation in interview was that he was aware that the tobacco products in the concealment were illegal to sell but he sold them to bring customers into his shop. Mr Mahmood stated that if customers came in to buy cheap tobacco/cigarettes they would also buy other products, without the sale of these tobacco products, Mr Mahmood claims he was not making enough money to pay his bills.
David Lodge, Head of Trading Standards, said “Cheap and illicit tobacco undermines Government policy on tobacco control and effectively increases juvenile’s access to tobacco. This penalty sends a message that trading standards will continue to take action against those caught selling foreign labelled cigarettes no matter how small the numbers are and prosecute those who do not comply with the law.”
Sergeant King, West Yorkshire Police Licencing Team, said “This is an excellent result and acknowledges the seriousness of this type of activity. We will continue to work closely with our colleagues at trading standards and Wakefield Neighbourhood Policing Team to ensure that this illegal activity is vociferously investigated and offenders are dealt with accordingly.”
Consumers or businesses wishing to report anyone they know who supply illicit tobacco should contact Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 040506