Chorley shopkeeper at shop notorious for peddling illicit tobacco is fined
A second staff member at a shop which had illegal tobacco stashed in a remote control operated compartment has appeared in court over illicit sales.
Sarhang Puor, 32, who worked at the Eeze Shop on Chapel Street, Chorley, was prosecuted by Lancashire Trading Standards after officers visiting the store in
February 2019 seized 409 packs of cigarettes and tobacco that were not in the legally required plain packaging.
Prosecuting, Nick McNamara said: " This particular premise has long been associated with the sale of illicit tobacco products and so receives special attention from trading standards officers.
"On this occasion Sarhang Ali Puor was the only member of staff in the shop.
"About his person Mr Puor was found to have a remote control device which eventually led officers to a secret compartment concealed behind a false back in a shelving unit, the panel of which was secured by an electro magnet which could only be de-activated by use of the remote control.
"Inside, officers found packs of cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco, none of which were in plain packaging.
"Of the seized packs, specimens of certain brands were later submitted to representatives of the genuine manufacturers. As a result of this we can say that of 409 packs seized that day, more than half, 237, were also counterfeit.
"Despite its elaborate concealment and his initial reluctance to disclose where the packs were being hidden, Mr Puor told officers that he was unaware that it was not legal to sell them."
The shop owner, Horus Abdulramen, previously pleaded guilty to two offences and asked for five further offences to be taken into consideration, and got six weeks suspended for two years.
Puor, of Sandling Road, Maidstone, Kent, claimed he had only been working at the shop for six days prior to the inspection on February 1 2019, and typically sold 35 to 40 packs per day.
He admitted two counts of selling tobacco that was not in p;lain packaging, and got an 18 month conditional discharge.
He must pay £133 costs and a £20 surcharge.
The prohibition against supplying tobacco products in other than plain packaging has been in force since May 2017.
Illicit cigarettes undermine financial incentives to quit smoking and pose unfair competition to law-abiding shopkeepers who find it impossible to trade alongside illegal sellers.
For each pack of illicit cigarettes or tobacco sold, the taxman is deprived of £8.50 or £12 respectively in terms of lost duty and VAT – in this case £4,000 had the men gone on to sell all the packs that were seized.
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