Counterfeit cigarettes emerged from a hidden chute at a Bradford shop during a Trading Standards test purchase.
Aziz Abdullah pleaded guilty to 21 charges relating to contraband cigarettes when he appeared at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
They all stem from the time he ran Doskey Food Store on Paley Road, a store that was visited by police and West Yorkshire Trading Standards multiple times between late 2019 and Spring 2021.
He will be sentenced for his crimes at Crown Court next month after Magistrates said the charges were too serious for them to deal with their limited powers.
The charges Mr Abdullah pleaded guilty to included possessing goods with a false trademark for sale, supplying tobacco in breach of packaging regulations and participating in a fraudulent business.
They relate to a period between 13 October 2019 and 8 March 2021.
Harjit Ryatt, prosecuting, said: “All these charges stem from his dealing in counterfeit and illicit tobacco.
“One charge is carrying out a fraudulent business relating to the persistence in dealing with illicit tobacco.”
Magistrates heard that police were tipped off about the sale of illegal tobacco at the shop in October 2019. Police and trading standards officers visited and warned Abdullah against selling such products in the future.
Mr Ryatt added: “You will see from the facts of this case that he persisted in that activity.”
A test purchase carried out by Trading Standards on November 29 saw an undercover officer ask for cheap tobacco. They were handed a pack of Richmond that cost £3.50 – much cheaper than the £10 of the retail cost of a legitimate packet.
There was a further visit by police on 28 July 2020 where illicit products were again found.
Counterfeit Richmond cigarettes were sold to a Trading Standards officer on a test purchase on 23 November.
The store was again visited on 8 December. Mr Ryatt said: “It was hoped that by this time the defendant would have realised his misdemeanours and stopped trading in illicit tobacco.”
He told the court that on this occasion officers found no illicit tobacco on the counter. But Mr Ryatt added: “When the test purchaser asked for cheap Richmond, the person at the till shouted out ‘Richmond’ and to her surprise, a pack appeared on the counter.”
This led to further investigation, with Mr Ryatt saying: “They found a chute connecting the rooms above the shop to the shop. When they went upstairs they found various hidden compartments where counterfeit tobacco was being stored.
“The chute went into the floor of the flat and re-emerged above the counter of the shop.”
Another visit took place on March 8 where again counterfeit tobacco was found to be sold by the shop.
Mr Ryatt said: “The offences persisted over a substantial period of time. Despite repeated warnings, the defendant persisted in dealing with illicit tobacco.”
Describing the impact of the crime, he said: “Apart from the detriment it causes to trademark holders and the loss of their reputation through inferior products being flooded into the market, there is concern these products may be harmful as far as the contents are concerned.”
During the course of the investigation, 1,500 packets of cigarettes were seized, along with 53 packets of rolling tobacco.
The value of the product was around £8,000.
Mr Ryatt told the court that the business, which no longer traders as Doskey, had been awarded a Covid 19 business hardship grant of £10,000 during lockdown.
He said the hidden chute showed a “degree of sophistication” to the criminality.
Chair of the bench Dr William Ashcroft said: “These matters are so serious that we feel the sentencing can only be dealt with in crown court. You committed these crimes for significant financial gain.
“You failed to heed the warnings on each of the visits by police and Trading Standards, and the offences were committed over a substantial period of time.”
He will be sentenced at Bradford Crown Court on 17 May.