£60,000 bill for Dudley shopkeeper caught with illegal cigarettes
A shopkeeper who was caught with a stash of illegal cigarettes and tobacco has been hit with a £60,000 court bill and a suspended prison sentence in a landmark case.
The haul was discovered during a raid at Istanbul Mini-Market in High Street, Brierley Hill.
Trading standards officers used a sniffer 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 in March 2017.
All of the products failed to comply with UK regulations requiring health warnings to be displayed and five brands were found to be counterfeit. Duty evaded on the haul was thought to be around £4,400.
Hamad, aged 45 and from West Bromwich, was given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, after pleading guilty to seven offences at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
He was found to have assets of £58,923 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.
If he fails to pay by July 12, he was warned he could have an extra six months added to his sentence.
He was also ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and pay costs to Dudley Council of £5,028.
Dudley Council said it was the first time in the borough that proceeds of the crime had been seized on top of the usual financial penalties imposed by the court.
Martin Samuels, the 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.”
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