A Brierley Hill shopkeeper who was caught with a stash of illegal cigarettes and tobacco has landed a £60,000 court bill and a suspended prison sentence in a landmark case for the borough.
The haul was discovered during a raid on at Istanbul Mini-Market, High Street, Brierley Hill in March 2017.
Dudley Council trading standards officers used a tobacco detection dog to uncover 718 packs of illegal cigarettes and 107 packs of illegal tobacco, which were found hidden in a false wall in the shop and in a car belonging to Ali Ibrahim Hamad parked outside the shop.
All of the products failed to comply with UK regulations requiring health warnings to be displayed and quantities of five brands were found to be counterfeit. Duty evaded on the haul was approximately £4,400.
Hamad, aged 45, from West Bromwich, pleaded guilty to seven offences in July 2018 and the case was referred to Wolverhampton Crown Court for sentencing. The court also granted the confiscation of the assets arising from the benefit of the criminal conduct under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Hamad appeared at Wolverhampton Crown Court on April 26 and was sentenced to three months for the offence relating to lack of health warnings, 12 months for five offences of possessing counterfeit products under the Trade Marks Act and six months for one offence under the Proceeds of Crime Act of possession of criminal property, all to run concurrently and suspended for 18 months.
He was found to have assets of £58 923.09, which is below the estimated £65,600 value of the benefit of the crime, and was therefore ordered to pay the entire amount under the Proceeds of Crime Act by July 12. If he fails to pay, he could have an extra six months added to his custodial sentence. He was also ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and pay costs to Dudley council of £5,028.
It is a landmark case for Dudley Council where the proceeds of the crime have been seized on top of the usual financial penalties imposed by the court.
Martin Samuels, Dudley Council’s strategic director for people, said:
Selling illegal tobacco is a serious crime and offenders need to know that the council will take action not only to seize and destroy illegal products but also to seek to close down premises and to confiscate assets made from committing these crimes.
This is the first case in Dudley borough where assets arising from the benefit of the crimes have been confiscated on top of the usual punishments and has resulted in the offender losing far more than the value of the illegal product seized. Our message to other shops involved in this illegal activity is we will pursue the same action against you, which may result in you losing all your assets.”
Residents can do something to keep illegal tobacco out of their area by informing Trading Standards on 01384 818871 or by telephoning the Central England Trading Standards Authorities fakes hotline anonymously on 0845 894 1008.
Note to editors
Under the confiscation process of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, where criminal lifestyle offences are committed, including offences involving counterfeit goods under the Trade Marks Act 1996, all assets are assumed to have been obtained from the criminal lifestyle and are therefore subject to confiscation. The amount confiscated is split in various proportions between the Home Office, the court service, the prosecuting authority and the financial investigation authority and is used for crime prevention and detection purposes.