Officers from Lancashire County Council Trading Standards are ‘waging war’ on sellers of illegal cigarettes and vapes, and have forced one trader to fork out almost £12,000 in fines and costs.
During an investigation into St Albans Convenience Store on St Albans Road in Lytham St Annes last year, undercover officers were sold counterfeit Richmond and Lambert and Butler products. A 15-year-old volunteer was also able to buy two ‘Elfbar’ e-cigarettes during an underage sales test purchase.
When Officers inspected the shop they uncovered illicit tobacco in drawers behind the counter and in a concealed compartment in the back of a cupboard. The back of the cupboard slid up to reveal that bricks had been removed to create the storage space.
A total of 112 packets of tobacco consisting of counterfeit cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco were seized.
The sole Company Director, Idres Maoloud, failed to attend court but had previously responded to interview questions under caution on behalf of the limited company. He said that he didn’t know that the tobacco was illegal and that he had been given it as payment for food and drink items from someone who didn’t have any money. He claimed that the tobacco was put in the concealed compartment in the storeroom in case the shop was robbed.
He also claimed that the man who had made the underage vape sales was not working at the shop, and hadn’t been provided with any training regarding age-restricted products.
In court the company was found guilty in its absence and fined £10,000. Magistrates also awarded costs totalling £1,691.69 and ordered the forfeiture and destruction of all of the tobacco.
Speaking after the case, Lancashire County Councillor Michael Green said: “Trading Standards Officers are declaring war against shops prepared to sell age-restricted products to young people and will continue to prosecute traders selling smuggled and counterfeit tobacco products.
“Our young people are accessing vapes for pocket money, too easily from some unscrupulous shops not taking their responsibilities seriously, however this significant sentence of £10,000 shows that such illegality is not worth the risk. Our officers are committed to protecting young people from accessing age restricted products and ensuring a level playing field for businesses who trade fairly and honestly.”