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    Store owner sold illicit tobacco at customers’ insistence, court hears

    The new owner of a shop continued to sell counterfeit tobacco because he did not want to disappoint his customers, a court heard.

    Adam Ali, 34, was the owner of PiotrI Pawel off Duckworth Lane, Bradford when an operation by West Yorkshire Trading Standards inspected the property in December 2018 and January 2019.

    Officers found counterfeit tobacco, labelled as popular brands like Benson and Hedges and Richmond, in a number of hidden compartments in the store. These included a crisp box and wall panel opened using an electromagnet.

    Ali appeared at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates Court on 28 February pleading guilty to a string of charges relating to the tobacco, brought by Trading Standards and Bradford Council.

    These included one fraud charge and six for applying to goods a sign likely to be mistaken for a registered trademark.

    Ali sold the business last Summer, and is no longer involved in its operation.

    Aneeka Sarwar, prosecuting on behalf of the Council, said officers visited the business after receiving information that the store was selling counterfeit tobacco products.

    Store owner sold illicit tobacco at customers’ insistence, court hearsPouches of tobacco were found in large crisp boxes in the rear, hidden behind crisp packets, and in a concealed wall panel accessed by an electromagnetic lock.

    The total amount recovered was over 8,420 cigarettes and 1.2kg of hand rolling tobacco.

    Tahir Ayub, representing Ali, said Ali had admitted responsibility for the crimes at the earliest possible stage. He said Ali had come t the UK in 2003 and worked hard since he arrived, eventually raising the money to buy his own business.

    When he purchased the business, the sale of illegal tobacco was already ongoing.

    Mr Ayub said: “There were customers who purchased a specific type of cigarette because of the price they were sold.”

    The court heard that while branded cigarettes would cost £10 a pack, the counterfeit cigarettes in the store sold for around £3 a pack.

    Mr Ayub added: “Mr Ali says customers were asking for these particular cigarettes because that is all they could afford. They would only buy the cigarettes they were accustomed to buying.

    “He says he was providing a service for them.

    “There was a degree of being misled by previous customers. There were a lot of issues with this business, and people were demanding he sell these products. He is very, very sorry for selling them.”

    He said after the inspection he made the decision to sell the business, and made a big loss. He now had little to no savings.

    Mr Ayub said: “He got into business not fully understanding the law in regards to this type of product. He simply carried on doing what he thought was OK.”

    He was given a 12 month community order with a requirement to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work. He will also have to complete 10 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

    Although the Council had asked that Ali pay £2,581 towards the costs of the case, Magistrates ordered him to pay just £300 towards costs due to his limited means.

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