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Gloucestershire Business News

Trading standards raid sees 'main source of illegal tobacco' in Gloucester shut down

Five men have been sentenced following a Trading Standards investigation on a shop that was deemed to be "the main source of illegal tobacco in Gloucester."

Cigarettes and loose tobacco that would have netted the shop close to £30,000 was seized. A haul that would have netted £38,000 in duty to the exchequer.

The sixth-month investigation in 2018 focussed on the Asian and European Store on Eastgate Street.

At a raid on February 8, Gloucestershire County Council trading standards officers and officers from Gloucestershire Constabulary found an extraordinary amount of illegal tobacco.

It was found in the kitchen floor, where a chute was used to deliver the tobacco into the shop below.

Further tobacco was found in the oven and in a hidden compartment under the stairs.

In total, the seized tobacco would have raised nearly £8,000 and £10,000 of duty was evaded. Trading Standards financial investigators also seized £5,200 in cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The money was hidden in the bottom of a sofa, the toaster and a bag in the bedroom.

A further raid was carried out by Gloucestershire Police at a flat on April where a further £14,000 of illegal tobacco was seized - a haul that would have ordinarily commanded £18,000 in duty.

Three further raids were carried out in the shop on May 21, June 4, June 6.

In total, officers seized 4,355 packets of 20 cigarettes - 80,000 in total - and 1.386 pouches of 50g hand-rolling tobacco.

During the investigation the store was leased to Nzar Osman, who admitted to putting his name on the least in return for £500 per month.

Although he took no part in running the business, Mr Osman was informed by trading standards officers that the shop was operating to sell illegal tobacco and he did not take action to stop it.

Mr Osman accepted he assisted in the supply of illegal tobacco and pleaded guilty to 14 charges relating to the supply of counterfeit tobacco and fraudulent evasion of duty.

He was sentenced to 24 weeks in prison.

Four other men were also prosecuted for their involvement at various points in the six-month investigation.

Shoresh Abdullah, 41 of Swansea, faced 13 charges of selling counterfeit tobacco, tobacco packaging and fraudulently evading duty. He was sentenced to 30 weeks in prison.

Sangar Zinati, 26 from Doncaster, faced six similar charges and received a 20-week suspended sentence.

Herem Omer, 24 of no fixed address faced 12 similar charges and was sentenced to 30 weeks in prison.

Wayne Bowcock, Chief Fire Officer and director responsible for trading standards at Gloucestershire County Council, said: "The sale of illegal tobacco undermines legitimate businesses in Gloucestershire and funds criminal activity.

"We do not tolerate illegal tobacco in our county, and I want to thank our trading standards officers for their hard work on this case."

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