The owner of an Ellesmere Port shop has been sentenced at Chester Crown Court for possession for sale of illegal cigarettes, following guilty pleas in the Magistrates Court.
Prosecuting for Cheshire West and Chester Trading Standards, Ryan Rothwell told the court that Salih Ali, 49, was the owner of The Baltic Store, Whitby Road, Ellesmere Port, and that he was charged with 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, £12,685, contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
He told the court that the case came about after Trading Standards officers from Cheshire West and Chester Council made two unannounced inspections at the store in March 2020 and April 2021.
The inspections were carried out based on intelligence that the store was connected to the supply of counterfeit cigarettes.
On both occasions, counterfeit cigarettes and cigarettes which did not comply with the relevant labelling and packaging regulations were discovered. In addition, on the first occasion, a total of £12,685 in cash was also discovered hidden in black plastic bags under a bed and behind a sink in the bathroom.
On the first inspection, the defendant was caught leaving the store via the back entrance and attempting to hurry away with bags in his hand. He was stopped and the bags were later found to contain 6500 cigarettes, which were seized.
A total of 47,740 individual cigarettes were seized. It was apparent to the Trading Standards officers from a visual inspection of the cigarettes that they did not comply with the packaging regulations.
The packs were illegal for sale in the UK, as they did not contain a health warning in English and the appearance of the packs was incorrect.
Subsequent examination of the cigarettes showed that some of the cigarettes that appeared genuine and for the UK market, were in fact counterfeit.
At Chester Crown Court, Mr Ali, represented by Mohammed Nawaz QC, was sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and 200 hours of community service.
In sentencing the defendant, His Honour Judge Berkson said, “It has been recognised for many years that smoking causes life shortening diseases and therefore the packaging of such products needs a health warning designed to be in the language of the country sold.
“Searches were carried out by the hard-working Trading Standards department of Cheshire West and Chester Council on two occasions when you were found in possession of cigarettes with the intent of selling.
“In relation to the second set of offences on the second visit, you knew very well from your interview and you went back and did it again. You had £12,000 cash and tried to hide it.
“You have no previous convictions, which is a mitigating factor. However, you have been in trouble with Trading Standards before, with Derbyshire and Shropshire.”
Chester and West Cheshire Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport, Councillor Karen Shore said, “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.”
A Proceeds of Crime hearing for this case will follow which will potentially forfeit any assets the defendant has acquired through his illegal trading.
The Council and partner Brio Leisure have launched a stop-smoking service for anyone in the borough who needs support. Previously only available to people who were referred by their GP or health care professional, it is now open to all.
The new ‘Go Smokefree’ service allows residents to self-refer for support to quit smoking, giving them access to 12 weeks of FREE Nicotine Replacement Therapy and unlimited behavioural support for as long as they feel they need.
One-to-one support is available in one of 18 venues across the borough. Additionally, residents can be supported via telephone, text, or via Brio’s Facebook page. For more information and support visit www.cheshirechangehub.org , email at email@example.com or call on 0300 777 0033.