Six thousand counterfeit cigarettes worth £3,000 found under the floor of a Church Street shop in Rugby

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A Rugby shopkeeper has been given a suspended prison sentence for selling counterfeit cigarettes.

Hamza Hassan, the owner of Church Street Mini Market in Church Street, Rugby has been given a six week suspended sentence and 100 hours of community service after pleading guilty to having in his possession a large quantity of counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco, as well as cigarettes and tobacco which were non duty paid and not labelled in accordance with UK law.

He was also ordered to pay £4,025 prosecution costs.

Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service took the successful prosecution after receiving complaints from the public and the local police.

Hassan had previously received a warning letter from Warwickshire Trading Standards in January 2013, after counterfeit cigarettes had been seized from his shop.

On July 30 last year, an officer from Warwickshire Trading Standards Service visited the Mini Market, accompanied by a police officer, following tip-offs from members of the public.

An inspection of the shop by the officer revealed illegal cigarettes concealed in three hidden compartments under the lino beneath a table in the back room, and also under the floor in the toilet.

The cigarettes and tobacco products were examined by the brand holders. Some being found to be counterfeit, others non- duty paid, and the remainder with foreign labelling or lacking the required health warnings.

In total 6,066 cigarettes and 133 packs of rolling tobacco were seized from the premises.

The court heard that the items would have had a retail value of approximately £3,000 and, as many of them were destined for sale outside the UK, there was also a substantial loss of duty to the government.

The court also heard that there was a public health issue with regard to the counterfeit tobacco products, as there was no way of knowing what they contained.

In sentencing Hassan to a six week custodial sentence suspended for 12 months, and ordering him to do 100 hours unpaid work, the Magistrates made reference to the sophisticated way in which the cigarettes and tobacco had been concealed in the shop, the large quantity of items involved and also the fact that Hassan had previously been given a warning by Warwickshire Trading Standards.

They gave credit to Hassan for pleading guilty to the charges.

Janet Faulkner, head of Warwickshire Trading Standards, said: “Counterfeit tobacco products are of grave concern because of the additional potential health risks to consumers.

“It is not possible to know what such items may contain, and there may be unsafe levels of chemicals in them which could cause serious additional harm. The public should check packets carefully to ensure that they are not buying illegal items.

“The sale of items destined for the foreign market, means that consumers are not given the correct health warnings, and the government is being defrauded of the duty payments. The sale of illegal products is damaging to legitimate business and is detrimental to the local economy.

“Shopkeepers and other traders are warned that Trading Standards will respond to any complaints about the sale of illegal tobacco products, and will take action against anyone found to be breaking the law.”