A Tyne and Wear tobacco trader who sold illicit tobacco has had his gantry removed by Imperial Tobacco for violating the terms and conditions of his contract, and he will no longer receive any sales support from the company.

Tajinder Singh, of Washington Wine and Convenience in Usworth, was convicted by magistrates for selling over-the-counter counterfeit cigarettes after more than 10,000 were seized from the premises. His gantry was stocked with a mixture of both legitimate and counterfeit ‘plain’ packs.

James Hall, anti-illicit trade manager, Imperial Tobacco UK, said the most recent HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) statistics estimate that £2.4bn is lost in tax due to the illicit market – an all-time high – owing to a rise in the sales of non-duty paid contraband and counterfeit tobacco.

He commented: “The growing issue of the illicit tobacco trade continues to harm honest UK retailers and put hundreds of businesses across the country at risk. We were concerned before the implementation of the new regulations that standardised packaging would hinder – rather than help – in the fight against illegal tobacco, and cases like the above simply reinforce our contention.

“We congratulate both Washington police and HMRC on this recent conviction and continue to offer our assistance in any matters relating to the detection and identification of illicit tobacco, but would suggest that the recent case involving Mr Singh is simply the tip of the iceberg.”

He said that if any retailers have suspicions about the sale of illegal tobacco in their area, or have seen any plain packs in their locality they believe may be counterfeit, they can contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 595000, or their local Trading Standards or police. Alternatively, retailers can talk to their Imperial Tobacco sales rep.