A shopkeeper in Cheshire who attempted to flee after being found in possession of illicit tobacco has been prosecuted by Cheshire West and Chester Trading Standards.
Officers made two unannounced inspections at the Baltic Store on Whitby Road in Ellesmere Port in March 2020 and April 2021 following intelligence reports that the business was connected with the supply of counterfeit cigarettes.
They discovered and seized a total of 47,750 counterfeit cigarettes including many whose packaging did not comply with UK regulations, as well as £12,685 in cash hidden in black plastic bags under a bed and behind the sink in the bathroom.
On the first inspection the store’s owner, Salih Ali, was caught attempting to leave the store via the back exit with bags in his hand. He was stopped and the bags were later found to contain 6,500 illicit cigarettes.
Ali pleaded guilty to a total of 10 offences: three offences of possessing counterfeit cigarettes for sale, contrary to the Trade Marks Act 1994; six charges of possession for sale of incorrectly labelled and packaged cigarettes, contrary to various tobacco labelling regulations, and one charge of possession of criminal property, contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Councillor Karen Shore, the Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport, commented: “Our Trading Standards Officers will vigorously pursue those involved in the sale of counterfeit goods and continue to protect the public and legitimate traders by removing poor quality counterfeit products from the marketplace.”
At Chester Crown Court on 13 September, Ali was sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and 200 hours of community service. A Proceeds of Crime hearing will follow.