The owner of a delicatessen in Oxfordshire has been handed a 28-month prison sentence following a trading standards investigation into illegal tobacco fraud.
Jacek Mazurek, Director of Witney Polish Deli Ltd, admitted to running his business for the fraudulent purpose of selling counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes between 2013 and 2018, in a case brought by Oxfordshire County Council’s trading standards team.
Joining him in the dock at Oxford Crown Court on February 26 were his employee Sylwia Jablonska, described in an earlier hearing as the ‘custodian’ for allowing the illegal tobacco to be stored in her house, and his former sales assistant Malgorzata Gerwatowska, who acted as the “runner”, retrieving the cigarettes and supplying them to customers in the shop.
A warrant was executed at Jablonska’s home in October 2018 when nearly 25,000 illegal cigarettes were seized from a locked cupboard. Later examination by experts showed that the haul included more than 6,000 counterfeit Marlboro Gold cigarettes labelled in German. The trio were arrested and interviewed by trading standards officers at Abingdon police station.
Jablonska pleaded guilty to possessing counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes that did not display the required health warnings and Gerwatowska admitted her role in supplying smuggled cigarettes. They were both sentenced to 10 months in prison, suspended for two years.
A confiscation hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act to determine Mazurek’s benefit from his criminal conduct will be heard at a later date.
Councillor Judith Heathcoat, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “This illegal activity brings crime into our neighbourhoods. That’s why it is so important to clamp down on it. It also has an impact on those legitimate businesses that are trading lawfully, putting them at a commercial disadvantage by criminals peddling their illicit wares.”
Jody Kerman, Oxfordshire County Council’s Head of Trading Standards, added: “Cracking down on the illegal tobacco trade is one of our top priorities for action, not only because smoking remains one of the UK’s biggest causes of premature death but we also know that the availability of cheap, illegal tobacco helps recruit the next generation of smokers and undermines initiatives to help adults quit smoking.”