Shopkeeper admits selling illegal tobacco

Ali's General  Store on Lincoln Road
Ali's General Store on Lincoln Road
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A shopkeeper could face a jail sentence after admitting selling counterfeit cigarettes - a year after being convicted of the same offence.

Trading Standards officers searched Ali’s General Store in Lincoln Road, Peterborough in March, finding thousands of illegal cigarettes, along with dozens of pouches of tobacco.

It was the second time in just 12 months officers had found illegal tobacco at the shop, following a raid in March last year.

Yesterday (Wednesday) Taher Ali Haqani (39) appeared at Peterborough Magistrates Court, where he pleaded guilty to six offences including the sale and supply of illicit tobacco not bearing the correct labelling, and trade mark offences.

Magistrates were told officers found 3,140 cigarettes in 157 packets, 2.4kg of hand rolling tobacco in nearly 50 packets, and 47 pouches of snuff in the store. The court also heard Haqani had pleaded guilty to seven similar offences in October last year. He was given a fine of £1,200 plus costs and victim surcharge totalling £1860 for the 2014 offences.

After hearing of Haqani’s history, magistrates said the case was too serious to be heard at the court, committing the case to Peterborough Crown Court where a judge has a wider range of sentencing powers.

It is believed to be the first time a case of this type has been sent to the Crown Court for sentencing.

Last year a number of shopkeepers were prosecuted for similar offences. One man was given a suspended jail sentence after magistrates were told he had previous convictions for selling illegal tobacco products.

Karen Woods, Regulatory Officer in Peterborough City Council’s Trading Standards team, said it was important to prosecute shopkeepers who sold illicit tobacco to prevent an impact on traders who stick to the law.

She said: “This is the second time in 12 months that Haqani has been prosecuted for trading illegal tobacco products.

“This illegal trade has a devastating impact on legitimate retailers, who have to compete with black market traders.

“We will continue to clamp down on the illicit market with our partners to protect consumers.”

Brian Gascoyne, chairman of the Millfield and New England Regeneration partnership (MANERP) said: “He has got no regard for public health. You have no idea what you are smoking with these cigarettes.

“I would like to see custodial sentences for all these cases. There is no excuse for selling illegal tobacco.”