Smethwick shop owner gets two and a half years in jail after seizure of illegal tobacco worth £300,000

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(Photo: Sandwell Council)

A Smethwick shop owner who stockpiled more than 750,000 illegal cigarettes and tobacco with a retail value of more than £300,000 has been jailed for 30 months at Coventry Crown Court.

Mansour Muhammed Omar, who previously owned UK Mini Market and KNN Mini Market, both in Smethwick, was imprisoned after Trading Standards caught him with the large quantity of illegal tobacco at his then Quinton, Birmingham home, and in a van parked outside the property.

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

He had previously pleaded guilty to a further similar 12 charges relating to the illegal tobacco found at his two shop premises.

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, the Trading Standards said.

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.

The prosecution, brought by Sandwell’s Trading Standards team, is the largest illicit tobacco case they have dealt with and goes back to July 2017 involving multiple premises.

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 tax payer 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.”