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Gloucestershire Business News

Three Gloucester men jailed for involvement in illegal tobacco sales

Three men have been jailed for their part in the sale of illegal tobacco at a Gloucestershire shop.

Hawkar Muhammed, 26, Salif Rauf Osman, 30 and Ahmed Mamood Ebrahim were all found guilty of being involved in an illegal tobacco operation at the Divan Mini Market on Barton Street.

Their trial at Gloucester Crown Court heard how on November 28 in 2017, trading standards officers carried out an inspection on 8 Faulkner Street in Gloucester.

During that raid, officers found 3,580 packets of illegal cigarettes and 2,639 50gram pouches of hand-rolling tobacco.

Some of the tobacco was stacked in boxes while other packs were hidden inside a sofa and a footstool. Officers also seized in excess of £22,000 of cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

At his first court hearing, Mr Ebrahim pleaded guilty to all charges, including being in possession of counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco; selling tobacco without health warnings and the fraudulent evasion of duty.

Mr Muhammed pleaded guilty to most of the charges, but pleaded not guilty to charges of fraudulent evasion of duty while Mr Osman pleaded not guilty to all charges.

A trial was set for Mr Muhammed and Mr Osman and before the case was due to start Mr Muhammed changed his plea, against the charge of fraudulent evasion of duty.

Trading Standards officers showed him that he had previously been warned about selling illegal tobacco when working at a shop in Gloucester in 2015.

The court heard that Mr Osman had a previous conviction of selling illegal tobacco on 15 occasions between January and October 2016 at the Costless Shop on Eastgate Street.

He was then sentenced to 20 months in prison, suspended for two years. His involvement in the subsequent case was committed during that suspended sentence.

He was found guilty of being part of the illegal tobacco operation and sentenced to 28 months in prison.

Mr Muhammed received a 26-month sentence and Mr Ebrahim 11 months.

Wayne Bowcock, Chief Fire Officer and director responsible for trading standards at Gloucestershire County Council, said: "This case sends a strong message to anyone who thinks about breaking the law in this way.

"Illegal tobacco harms legitimate traders and puts people's health even more at risk.

"We'll always take action whenever we find illegal tobacco, and I would like to congratulate our Trading Standards officers on their hard work to bring about justice."

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