An ‘ashamed’ shopkeeper caught selling illegal cigarettes and tobacco for the second time in a year has escaped a prison sentence.
Taher Ali Haqani was told he was on his last chance after a court heard he had been continually breaking the law to keep Ali’s General Store in Lincoln Road from going out of business.
Illegal products hidden by Haqani on top of a “chiller cabinet” were seized by police earlier this year shortly after a visit by Trading Standards officers.
The 40-year-old admitted his guilt and told officers he had been “consistently” selling unregulated cigarettes and tobacco without the correct trademarks, in addition to the two occasions he had been caught.
Haqani was fined in October last year after being convicted of similar offences, and today (Friday, November 13) at Peterborough Crown Court, Recorder David Mayall decided to give him a suspended prison sentence after hearing evidence that the shopkeeper was the sole provider for his wife and two young children.
Haqani was told via an interpreter that he had been given four months concurrently for each of the four counts of supplying prohibited goods and two months concurrently for possession of fake tobacco with a view to selling it.
All of the sentences run concurrent to each other and are suspended for 12 months. In addition, Haqani will have to pay costs just shy of £1,500 and do 60 hours of unpaid work, while a Rehabilitation Activity Requirement order was imposed for 20 days.
Officers discovered 3,140 cigarettes in 157 packets, 2.4kg of hand rolling tobacco in nearly 50 packets and 47 pouches of snuff in the store.
Charles Snelling, prosecuting, said that Haqani, of Norman Road, told police that he paid £2 per packet and sold them for between £2.50 and £3.
He added: “He admitted on interview this is something he does consistently and he does it for the purpose of finance.”
Yaseen M Khan, defending, said: “He accepts he does this quite often. He recognises that he has been a very silly man.
“He understands to an extent that this of course is not something that is acceptable or something he can continue doing.
“The defence would submit that this is not the largest sale of cigarettes of that kind, or tobacco.”
It was added: “He is the sole provider financially - he pays for the rent and the food. He takes his children to school.”
The court was also told that Haqani was “ashamed” of his actions.
Recorder Mayall expressed concern at the responsibility Haqani took for his actions, saying: “It’s in my judgement a very serious matter. The public needs to be protected from the sale of these types of products.”
The recorder believed Haqani’s actions deserved a prison sentence, but because of his family’s circumstances he told the defendant: “I can in the circumstances suspend the sentence and give you one last chance to realise the errors of your ways.”
All of the illegal products will now be destroyed.
Karen Woods, regulatory officer in Peterborough City Council’s Trading Standards team, said: “We are pleased that the crown court has taken this matter very seriously, especially as this is the second time in 12 months that Haqani has been prosecuted for trading illegal tobacco products.
“The severity of the judge’s decision sends out a powerful message that we hope will deter others as we continue to put a stop to illegal and counterfeit tobacco being supplied and sold here in Peterborough.”