A MAN caught selling illegal cigarettes and tobacco from his Lowesmoor shop has been heavily fined.
Shapol Bakrali of Ambleside Drive pleaded guilty to 14 offences at Worcester Magistrates Court after officers from Worcestershire Regulatory Services’ raided Middle Eastern Foods in February.
It came after police received significant intelligence reports and undercover trading standards officers made test purchases from the premises.
The raid uncovered secret stashes of illegal tobacco concealed in a button operated compartment in the shop counter and in a covered pit in the basement.
As a result the 37-year-old’s home address was also searched and substantially more illegal tobacco was found and seized.
In total 4,430 packets of illegal cigarettes were seized along with 16.5kg of hand rolling and shisha tobacco products.
Magistrates fined Bakrali £620 as well as ordering him to pay £800 in prosecution costs and a victim surcharge of £20. They also ordered all of the seized goods to be confiscated.
Coun Mark Bullivant, Worcestershire Regulatory Services joint committee chairman, said: “Together with the police our officers will continue to work to stamp out illegal cigarette sales, which pose a significant risk to people’s health and have a massive impact on legitimate traders who are trying to make an honest living.
“I would encourage members of the public to keep on telling us, the police or Crimestoppers in confidence whenever such cigarettes are being sold.”
PC Alex Denny from West Mercia Police Cathedral Ward Safer Neighbourhood Team, added: “This is an excellent demonstration of partnership working within the city of Worcester between West Mercia Police and Worcestershire Regulatory Services.
“This will serve as a reminder to those engaged in the sale of illicit products that robust enforcement is taking place and will continue to do so. I hope that it will also demonstrate to the local community our commitment to them.”