24th August 2018

Illegal skin whitener seller jailed

A shopkeeper in South London has been sentenced to 20 months in prison and ordered to pay a £1,500 fine plus £5,000 costs after being found guilty of selling dangerous skin lightening products in a landmark victory for trading standards.


By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
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These results show that businesses cannot hide by selling illegal goods online and that the courts will severely punish those who repeatedly break the law

Southwark Council brought the prosecution against Mohammed Iqbal Bharodawala (45), a director of Jenny’s Cosmetics Ltd., when his company was discovered to be selling cosmetics containing the chemical hydroquinone, which has been banned in such products since 2001.

Hydroquinone can cause serious and irreversible skin damage as well as being harmful to the liver and nervous system.

Bharodawala pleaded guilty to nine offences relating to the supply of skin lightening products containing the harmful chemical and 15 further offences regarding the inadequate labelling of cosmetics. He is the first person to be jailed for selling illegal skin whitening products.

Bharodawala has previously been prosecuted by Southwark Council for similar offences; in November 2015 he was given a suspended sentence of 12 months for offences that took place at the same business in 2014.

The court also heard how Bharadowala had been stopped by the UK Border Force in March 2017 when returning from France with 1,431 infringing cosmetics. These were seized by Kent Trading Standards.

Test purchases

Trading standards test purchases of three illegal products sold via eBay led to an inspection of Bharadowala’s premises in January 2017, and some 260 items were seized. One of the products purchased online contained 17% hydroquinone and had no manufacturer’s details or English-language labelling.

Further investigation revealed that the eBay transaction was with a company called Jenny’s Online Ltd, run by Bharodawala’s brother, Abdul Kadar Bharodawala (35). He and his company also pleaded guilty to three offences each, under cosmetic product safety regulations. Abdul Bharodawala was also in court for sentencing and received a one-year community order, 80 hours unpaid work, costs of £4,500 and a fine of £500 against the company.

Proactive enforcement

The judge commended Southwark Council for its work in bringing the cases. Southwark is one of the most proactive enforcement authorities in the UK in regard to finding and prosecuting vendors of illegal skin lighteners. Between 2002 and January this year, it has successfully brought 20 local cosmetic suppliers to court for supplying dangerous and illegal skin lightening products. Total fines and costs amount to £424,000, with three suspended prison sentences.

Because of this work the council’s trading standards team was awarded funds by National Trading Standards (NTS) to look into online sales. This is the fourth retailer to be prosecuted for selling illegal skin lighteners on eBay as part of the NTS project.

Cllr Evelyn Akoto, Southwark Council cabinet member for community safety and public health, said: “These results show that businesses cannot hide by selling illegal goods online and that the courts will severely punish those who repeatedly break the law.

“I fully support the Judge’s decision to bestow the severest sentence in such a case, and hope that it acts as a serious deterrent to anyone thinking of dealing in dangerous skin lightening products here in future.”