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Monday, April 22, 2024

£58,755 confiscation order for Leeds retailer selling illicit tobacco.

On the 18 March 2024, a confiscation order was made for £58,755.37 against Mr Saman Amin following a previous conviction for selling illicit cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco from his business, Chapel Street Convenience Store, 21-23 Chapel Street, Halton, Leeds, LS15 7RN. The benefit from the offending was agreed as £239,779.68 and his available assets were calculated as £58,755.37. He has been given three months to pay.

Mr Amin pleaded guilty in June 2023 and was sentenced in July 2023 to a 10 months prison sentence which was suspended for 18 months and also ordered to complete 200 hours unpaid work.

Chapel Street Convenience Store was already known to West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service (WYTSS), following a number of complaints about the premises supplying illicit and duty free tobacco.

On 3 September 2021, illicit tobacco was found and seized from inside the business, stored behind the sales counter. The total amount found behind the sales counter was 296 x 20 packets of cigarettes and 62 x 50g pouches of hand rolling tobacco.

Illicit Tobacco found in cupboards. Image: Babul Hussain

In a storeroom next door, illicit tobacco was also found on the floor and hidden in cupboards. The total items seized from the storeroom were 8,655 x 20 packets of cigarettes and 1,918 x 50g pouches of hand rolling tobacco.

The combined totals of items seized from the shop and storeroom was: 179,020 cigarettes and 99kg of Hand Rolling Tobacco. The seized illicit tobacco products were a mix of counterfeit and smuggled items that did not bear the statutory health warnings, were not in the standardised packaging and were non duty paid. The total genuine comparative value of the seized tobacco is more than £160,000. Total excise duty payable on the seized tobacco would have been over £90,000.

The Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health Programme, funded by the five Public Health departments, is helping people to stop tobacco use for good by educating the public and by investigating traders who supply cheap and illicit tobacco. The initiative uses multi-agency enforcement and community marketing campaigns to tackle the problems of the illicit trade.

To date the programme has taken more than 12 million illicit cigarettes and 3.5 tonnes of illicit hand rolling tobacco off the streets of West Yorkshire. With more inspections planned in the coming weeks, these figures are set to increase. Training sessions with thousands of members of the public and hundreds of front line professionals have been delivered to raise awareness about the dangers and wider criminality associated with the supply of illicit tobacco.

Linda Davis, West Yorkshire Trading Standards Manager said, “The Proceeds of Crime Act allows us to recoup a criminal’s benefit from crime via confiscation orders, and we will pursue and recover assets of those involved in this type of offending, ensuring they cannot use their ill-gotten gains to further their illegal enterprises.”

Cllr Pauleen Grahame, Member of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards said, “The judgement shows how seriously the courts view these sales and this should serve as an example to others who might break the law. Far from being a victimless crime, the illegal trade in tobacco costs government millions each year in lost revenue, makes it easier for children to start smoking, takes advantage of cash-strapped families, and helps fund organised crime including human trafficking. I would like to thank members of the public for reporting illegal sales and encourage everyone to continue doing so to reduce the harm caused by tobacco in our communities.”

If you need to report a trader selling cheap and illicit tobacco please contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline: 0808 223 1133 anonymously. Anyone wanting help to quit can find their local Stop Smoking Service at www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/

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