Trader sentenced for illegal cigarettes offences

Gareth Williams, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement and Public Health: a warning to anyone tempted to deal in illegal cigarettes and tobacco

A visit by police and district council licensing officers to a food shop in High Wycombe found counterfeit cigarettes and foreign-labelled tobacco for sale.

And at Wycombe magistrates court on Thursday (5 February) shopkeeper Goldi Singh Gurwara, of Anatolia Food Centre in Oxford Street, was sentenced to a 12-month community order, in a case brought by Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards.

At an earlier hearing, Mr Gurwara admitted six charges, three relating to the possession of cigarettes bearing infringing trademarks, namely Richmond, Mayfair and Marlboro.  A further three charges related to failures of the tobacco to bear the statutory warnings and be in packaging that was the correct colour, dull green.

Magistrates were told that during the officers’ visit on 19 January 2019, several foreign labelled tobacco products were discovered under the till counter at the front of the store. These were seized as they did not bear the correct labelling.

Then officers spotted a staff member from the store loading the boot of a black Vauxhall Zafira, registered to Mr Gurwara, with boxes and large quantities of alcohol, at the rear of Anatolia Food Centre.

They took a closer look inside the car and found tobacco and cigarettes in a large cardboard box and carrier bags. They seized six 50g pouches of hand rolling tobacco and 428 packets of 20 cigarettes with a retail value of around £4,500.

When Trading Standards officers picked up the investigation they found all the seized goods broke the law. None of the products bore the required statutory warnings in the correct format. None of the packaging complied with the legal requirements of the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations.

They found 102 packets of the cigarettes were counterfeit. The remaining 318 packets of cigarettes and the hand rolling tobacco were genuine products but destined for Bulgaria, Ukraine, Poland, and Macedonia.

Mr Gurwara told officers the cigarettes were left in the shop by a Chinese or Nepalese customer called Fang, but the phone number he provided proved to be an unregistered pay-as-you-go phone.

The court heard that Mr Gurwara, of previous good character,  had unsuccessfully appealed against the suspension of his alcohol licence for three months for matters arising from the same visit during which the tobacco was seized.

Magistrates ordered him to do 100 hours of unpaid work during the 12 month community order, and ordered him to pay £1,500 costs and an £85 victims surcharge. They ordered all the seized tobacco and cigarettes to be destroyed.

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.