A Luton shopkeeper continued to sell illicit and unsafe tobacco despite being on bail for the same offence.
Halima Khan, aged 48, of Ackworth Crescent, Luton, who sold illicit tobacco from her shop Akram’s Second Hand Retailer in Leagrave Road, appeared before Luton Crown Court on December 20, 2021.
Following a test purchase operation in October 2019 in which non-duty paid cigarettes were sold, officers from Trading Standards conducted a warrant at the premises in November 2019. Upon inspection, 141 packets of non-duty paid cigarettes were found hidden in a fridge. Further examination of the products indicated that some were counterfeit and others unsafe as they would not self-extinguish if discarded.
Despite being on bail for initial offences, it was suspected that Mrs Khan continued to sell illicit tobacco. A test purchase operation was subsequently carried out in 2020, followed by 3 further test purchases in 2021. These operations concluded in the seizure of another 16 packets of illicit cigarettes.
Mrs Khan pleaded guilty to all of the 12 offences against her. She was given an 18 month community order, 15 days of rehabilitation activity requirement and ordered to pay the court surcharge.
Mrs Khan also faces a proceeds of crime hearing, in which assets gained under criminal activity can be forfeited.
Cllr Abbas Hussain, portfolio holder for Neighbourhood Services and Community Safety at Luton Council said: “I’m pleased to hear that Luton Trading Standards is investigating and gathering information on the sale of illicit tobacco, vape pens and shisha across Luton.
“The sale of illicit tobacco evades tax and is unfair to honest traders. Illicit tobacco is also more dangerous than regulated tobacco, as these cigarettes do not extinguish in the same way as regulated products, increasing the risk of house fires. The sale of illicit tobacco is often linked to wider organised criminal activity, so we have good reason to be vigilant."
Landlords, whose tenants are engaged in the sale of illicit tobacco will also be advised and investigated by trading standards in relation to proceeds of crime, where sales continue in a bid to crack down and improve standards of trading within Luton. Businesses can also face closure.
Anyone with information on premises and individuals selling and storing illicit tobacco in Luton can report in confidence here https://keep-it-out.co.uk.