Shop owner spared prison after selling fake cigarettes
PUBLISHED: 14:53 19 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:53 19 August 2019
A former Suffolk shop owner who sold fake cigarettes and tobacco has been spared jail.
Tala Tariq, 43, who previously owned Bargain Point in Lowestoft, pleaded guilty to a number of offences after selling cigarettes and tobacco products which were either counterfeit, unsafe or did not adhere to health advice or packaging regulations.
Suffolk Magistrates' Court heard on Monday how Suffolk Trading Standards officers and Suffolk police raided Tariq's shop on two different occasions - May 10 and June 7 last year.
Officers found the illicit items hidden in the roof void, in bins under the counter and among other stock at the London Road North store.
On May 10, 5,540 fake cigarettes and 2.6kg of fake tobacco were seized, while on June 7, 1,580 fake cigarettes and 2.8kg of fake tobacco was discovered.
A further 5,820 cigarettes were found to be unsafe following the two raids and 23,400 cigarettes and 249 50g packets of tobacco carried no health warning.
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The illegal items were seized and the court heard how Tariq, now of Arthur Street, Newport, South Wales, was also warned in writing by Suffolk Trading Standards in April last year over selling fake goods.
Jamal Kahlil, mitigating, said Tariq was approached by a man who said he would pay three quarters of his rent - £750 - to sell the fake items on his behalf.
Mr Kahlil added that Tariq sold the shop in July 2018.
Tariq was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months, fined £6,000 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £122.
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Sentencing Tariq, magistrate Paul Thacker said: "Mr Tariq, you made a profit from selling illegal and counterfeit goods and purchasers were likely to be put at risk.
"We do not believe you are genuinely remorseful, just remorseful that you were caught. You were warned before the raids but you took no action other than to hide your stock."
An order to destroy the illegal items was also made by the court.
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Nousha Meek, the Suffolk Trading Standards officer who led the case, said: "Following the reinspection of the Bargain Point store, we sent samples of the tobacco to the trademark holders, who confirmed that they were counterfeit.
"Other samples were sent for safety testing and they all failed as they did not self-extinguish. Official products will put themselves out when not actively smoked, reducing the risk of fire.
"Counterfeit tobacco can be difficult for consumers to spot, so it is important for us to make sure these items are removed from sale.
"As the tobacco will not have been through any safety checks, consumers have no way of knowing what they are smoking and therefore could be increasing the risks to their health."
Richard Rout, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for environment and public protection, said: "This is another positive result for our Trading Standards team preventing illegal tobacco being distributed around Suffolk.
"Tariq's apparent financial greed put the public in danger, not only their health but the potential fire risks too.
"This illegal activity also damages the local economy and our reputable retailers, who lose out on selling official products.
"We remain committed to protecting Suffolk's business and residents. I'd also like to thank colleagues from Suffolk police for their support in the case."