Dudley shopkeeper used freezer to hide illegal tobacco
A shopkeeper who hid illegal tobacco inside a freezer and in drawers under the meat counter has been ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.
Sywash Mashkhaty, owner of European Food Express in Dudley High Street, pleaded guilty to seven offences in front of Wolverhampton magistrates.
The court heard that during an inspection in August 2016, trading standards officers found 1,765 packets of cigarettes and tobacco without the necessary health warnings and which had evaded excise duty.
Five brands were also found to be counterfeit.
The haul was discovered hidden in drawers under the meat counter, inside a freezer cabinet in an upstairs room and in a car parked at the rear of the premises.
The duty evaded was estimated to be more than £10,000.
What were the offences?
Mashkhaty, 26, of Ryland Street, Birmingham, pleaded guilty to one offence under the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations relating to the lack of health warnings, five offences under the Trade Marks Act relating to counterfeit products and one offence under the Proceeds of Crime Act in respect of possessing criminal property which had evaded duty.
He was given a 12-month community order with 150 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £1,472 costs and a victim surcharge of £85.
Mashkhaty's employee and previous owner of the business Najibullah Asakzai, 24, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the offences.
Asakzai, of Haig Road, Dudley received a 12-month community order and a 12-month night time curfew and was ordered to pay £1,652 costs and a victim surcharge of £85.
All the illegal products seized were forfeited for destruction.
What is Dudley Council's response?
Councillor Peter Miller, cabinet member responsible for health and wellbeing, said afterwards: “Dudley Council will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute those who choose to deal in these products.
“Selling illegal tobacco is a crime and offenders need to know they will face the consequences.
“While all smoking is harmful, illegal tobacco is sold at low prices and without the necessary health warnings.
“Cheap cigarettes make it harder for people to quit and remain smoke free.
"It also deprives legitimate businesses of revenue and robs the tax payer of money that could be spent on schools and hospitals."
Residents can speak to Dudley Trading Standards on 01384 818871 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.