Shopkeeper sentenced for selling illegal tobacco

A sniffer dog took minutes to root out illegal tobacco in a Chesham food and wine shop.

The dog was sent in as part of a joint operation by Trading Standards, police and licensing officers on Chesham Food and Wine, in White Hill, last May.

And on Wednesday (11 March) at Wycombe Magistrates Court Amarpreet Singh Malhotra admitted four counts of supplying illegally labelled cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco.

He was fined £400, ordered to pay costs of £627 and a victim surcharge of £32. Magistrates also ordered the destruction of the seized tobacco and cigarettes.

The court was told the routine inspection by Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards, Thames Valley Police and Chiltern District Council officers was in response to police intelligence that illicit cigarettes and tobacco were being sold at the shop.

When Mr Molhotra denied having illicit tobacco in the shop, officers sent in the tobacco detection dog, who found Marlboro Gold cigarettes hidden in a stool behind the counter.

He then led the officers to pouches of Amber Leaf hand-rolling tobacco concealed in empty packing under the counter.

Neither cigarettes nor tobacco bore English warnings and were not in the standard UK plain green packaging. Officers seized seven 50g pouches of Amber Leaf tobacco and seven packs of 20 Marlboro Gold cigarettes, with a retail value of £287.

When Mr Malhotra was interviewed on 3 October 2019, with an interpreter present, he said a Polish friend at his gym sold him a carton of 10 packs of 20 Marlboro and 10 pouches of Amber Leaf.

He told officers he bought them for his own use and then decided he would smoke half and sell half, because other stores in Chesham sold cheap tobacco and he wanted to attract customers into his shop.

He admitted selling two packs of Marlboro for £5.50, having paid £4.50 for them, and three pouches of Amber Leaf at £11 each. He was remorseful and said he realised it had been a mistake to do this.

Defending, Shenel Johnson told magistrates Mr Malhotra had no previous convictions for offences of this type and the amount of tobacco discovered was very small: a case she said she would have expected to be dealt with by a caution.

Gareth Williams, Buckinghamshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Engagement and Public Health, said: “Let this case be a warning to anyone tempted to deal in illegal cigarettes and tobacco that our Trading Standards officers take their role of enforcement very seriously.

“All tobacco is harmful, but the supply of illegal cigarettes seriously undermines the drive to reduce smoking, it fuels organised criminality and it’s often a gateway for young people to becoming addicted to a habit which prematurely kills over half its users.”

To report a trader selling cheap and illegal tobacco, contact the Buckinghamshire Illegal Tobacco Hotline on 0300 999 6 999.