Dudley shops shut down after illegal tobacco found
Two Dudley town centre businesses found to be selling illegal tobacco have been forced to close following an investigation by council trading standards officers.
European Food Express and Dudley Stores, both in High Street, have been closed down after counterfeit cigarettes were found.
In December, Dudley Council successfully applied for a closure order under anti-social behaviour legislation to force European Food Express to shut for three months – following a number of seizures of counterfeit and illegal cigarettes and tobacco over the previous two years and the prosecution of two people involved.
At the end of February, the council successfully applied again to Wolverhampton Magistrates Court to extend the order for a further three months. The shop will now remain closed until June, while the council engages with the new owners to implement measures to prevent illegal sales resuming.
On the same day, 42-year-old Sirdar Rashid, the leaseholder of Dudley Stores was found guilty of five offences involving the sale of illegal and counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco. The court was told that trading standards officers had visited the premises in October 2016 with a tobacco dog and handler, accompanied by police officers.
At the store, they found 242 packets of cigarettes and tobacco – the majority of which were counterfeit.
Some were found hidden in a void behind a mirror in a store room and others in boxes and bags at the back of the store, as well as on a counter behind the till.
The five offences included three relating to the possession of counterfeit brands, one offence of possessing 242 packets which did not contain the necessary health warnings and one offence relating to the possession of criminal property for which duty had not been paid.
Trading standards officers estimated the duty evaded on the haul was approximately £1,500.
Rashid, now living in London, was sentenced to a 12-month community order, ordered to undertake 60 hours unpaid work and pay £400 costs and a victim surcharge of £85. Dudley Council confirmed that the business closed down in 2017 after the landlord took action to repossess the premises due to the illegal activity.
Councillor Gaye Partridge, Dudley Council's cabinet member responsible for communities, said: "Selling illegal tobacco is a crime and offenders need to know that the council will take action to apply to the courts to close down premises and prosecute offenders if they choose to deal in illegal products.
"While all smoking is harmful, illegal tobacco is sold at low prices and without the necessary health warnings which makes it easier for children and young smokers to get hooked on smoking and harder for people to quit.
"These crimes impact negatively on health and our community and deprives legitimate businesses of revenue and robs the tax payer of money that could be spent on schools and hospitals.”
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