tobacco seizure resized

A retailer has been jailed for 30 months after a stash of 750,000 illegal cigarettes and tobacco with a retail value of more than £300,000 was discovered in his possession.

Mansour Muhammed Omar, who previously owned UK Mini Market and KNN Mini Market in Smethwick, was imprisoned after officers from Sandwell Council’s Trading Standards team caught him with the illegal tobacco at his former home in Quinton, Birmingham, and in a van parked outside.

He was found guilty of nine charges under the Trade Marks Act 1994, and The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 at Coventry Crown Court.

He had previously pleaded guilty to an additional 12 charges relating to the illegal tobacco found at his two shops.

The tobacco products were all non-duty paid with a mixture of counterfeit and illicit white cigarettes. They were incorrectly packaged and did not bear the correct UK health warnings.

Sandwell’s Trading Standards team, which initiated the prosecution, said it was the largest illicit tobacco case they have dealt with and goes back to July 2017 involving multiple premises.

They added that the volume of tobacco products kept at home and in the van meant that the two shop premises could be easily restocked, reducing the amount of products kept at the shop at any point in time.

Alice Davey, Sandwell’s director of borough economy, said: “All tobacco is harmful, but illegal tobacco sold at a lower price makes it easier for children to start smoking and get hooked. Sellers rarely care who they sell to.

“The availability of these illegal products also makes it harder for people to quit and remain smoke free as well as undermining government health policies aimed at reducing the cost to the NHS of treating disease caused by smoking.

“The loss to the taxpayer means less money is being spent on local communities, schools and hospitals. It also causes revenue loss to honest and hardworking retailers who cannot compete with the lower price of illegal tobacco.

“There are also fire safety implications as illegal cigarettes do not comply with legal requirements designed to reduce the chances of unattended lit cigarettes starting a fire. This is not a victimless crime.”