17th August 2022

Shopkeeper jailed over illicit tobacco

A shopkeeper in Eastbourne who sold illegal tobacco from specially built concealments has been jailed for eight months.

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team

An East Sussex Trading Standards investigation of an Eastbourne shop selling illicit tobacco products has resulted in an eight-month prison sentence for 32-year-old man.

Sarbast Hassan, who now lives in Essex Street, Hull, pleaded guilty in March to the possession of counterfeit cigarettes for sale and possessing non UK duty paid hand rolling tobacco and cigarettes. He was given a custodial sentence at Hove Crown Court on July 12.

Come of the illicit hand-rolling tobacco found in the shop (image credit: East Sussex Trading Standards)

Officers from East Sussex Trading Standards discovered the illicit tobacco during three inspections of the Aryian Mini Market on Brassey Avenue in Eastbourne in 2020. With the assistance of a specially trained sniffer dog, the hand rolling tobacco and cigarettes were found hidden in various concealments including under the floor of the shop’s rear stock room and behind wall panelling.

Hassan admitted ownership of the items with a view to sale. The estimated total retail value of the illegal tobacco from all three inspections was £10,374.

The shop is now under new ownership.

Richard Strawson, East Sussex Trading Standards manager, said: “This conviction is another warning to those involved in the sale of counterfeit tobacco that we are committed to finding and prosecuting those who persist in this illegal activity.

“We take the supply of illegal tobacco very seriously and will do everything in our power to tackle this problem and protect our residents.”

Darrell Gale, Director of Public Health in East Sussex, added: “There are an estimated 57,000 smokers in East Sussex and, each year, approximately 1,000 deaths in the county are attributable to smoking.

“Most smokers started before they were 18 and illegal tobacco is sold at pocket money prices getting local children, in the poorest parts of the county, addicted to tobacco, perpetuating the cycle of health inequalities.

“Public Health will continue to work with Trading Standards and other partners across the county to tackle illegal tobacco, protecting our communities from tobacco addiction and its related harm.”

Sentencing Hassan, the judge HHJ Gold QC said: “These are serious matters involving the trade of illicit goods. I consider it so serious that only a custodial sentence will suffice.”

A forfeiture and destruction order was made for the tobacco seized. Hassan was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,644.

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