Shopkeeper faces prison after thousands of counterfeit cigarettes found in store

By Chris Young, Local Democracy Reporter

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Photo: iStock

A man who ran a Bradford mini market has been told he could face a prison sentence after admitting a string of charges relating to the sale of counterfeit cigarettes.

Kirmanj Kareem, AKA Morad Omer Saleh stocked thousands of packets of knock off cigarettes bearing logos of Benson and Hedges, Amber Leaf and Richmond, and avoided paying over £30,000 in duty.

Appearing at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates on Tuesday, Saleh (37) admitted 13 offences relating to selling goods with false trademarks, supplying cigarettes without health warnings and selling cigarettes in breach of packaging regulations.

He was told that his offences were so serious they could lead to a prison sentence, and he will be sentenced at Crown Court next month.

The court was told that he was no longer involved in the business, or any kind of retail work, and had “limited” prospects.

The case was brought by Bradford Council on behalf of West Yorkshire Trading Standards.

Saleh, of Great Horton Road, ran Bolton Road Mini Market when Trading Standards officers visited the business on October 16 2019.

On that occasion an undercover officer was sold a packet of counterfeit Richmond cigarettes.

Officers returned the next day and found that the shop had in stock a further 414 packets of illicit cigarettes.

This was followed up with yet another visit on November 18, when officers also searched the defendant’s home and a van associated with the business.

They found a total of 3,383 packets of counterfeit cigarettes – which also did not display health warnings required by law.

Some of the packets of cigarettes were hidden in boxes of crisps within the store.

But his defence solicitor told Magistrates that customers of the store were not being mislead into buying products they thought were legal – pointing out that if people bought cigarettes with foreign languages on the box they would likely realise they were not genuine.

The charges Saleh pleaded guilty to included offering for sale goods bearing a false trademark and supplying a tobacco product not carrying health warnings.

Aneeka Sarwar, prosecuting, said: “There was a degree of professionalism as the cigarettes were concealed in crisp packet boxes on the premises, and that cigarettes were found in a van and his home. This indicates a high degree of professionalism.”

Alan Petherbridge, defending, told the court that Saleh, who is from Iraq, was living in the UK “not through choice but through necessity.”

He said he was the “front man” for the business, which he took over in exchange for 25 per cent profit. He knew he was selling “bootleg” cigarettes when he took on the role.

He added: “He admits playing a part in this enterprise, but his perception of how serious it is quite limited.

“His partner has since sold the shop out from under my client’s feet and has gone back to Kurdistan.”

He suggested there was little attempt to mislead customers, adding: “If people go into a shop and buy cigarettes with a foreign language on they must know something is wrong – but my client admits he did facilitate this.”

Petherbridge said the offence was not particularly sophisticated, pointing out that Trading Standards had easily discovered the counterfeit cigarettes on their two visits.

He said the defendant did not have the wherewithal to claim benefits, and was currently living with a friend, who was supporting him.

He said: “His prospects are limited, he now has no shop and no future.”

Magistrates said that due to the amount of illicit cigarettes, the £30,000 duty that had been avoided, and the defendants’s previous convictions, sentencing could only take place at Bradford Crown Court.

Sentencing will take place on May 18.