A SNIFFER dog used by trading standards officers exposed a sophisticated operation to store counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco at a West Yorkshire shop, Leeds Crown Court heard.
Shopkeeper Hishyar Suleiman Gully was handed a suspended jail sentence after counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco was discovered in his Biedronka shop on Huddersfield Road, Dewsbury.
An investigation was launched after a trading standards officer posing as a customer asking for cheap tobacco was sold a 50g pouch of tobacco for just £3 on March 9 last year.
Two days later, trading standards officers went to the shop with a sniffer dog.
The dog led officers to the shop’s counter, which was taken apart and found to contain 503 packets of fake cigarettes and tobacco.
The dog then led officers to a mirror in a toilet at the back of the shop. When the mirror was removed from the wall, a hydraulically operated door was found leading to a further storage area containing more tobacco products and £1,000 in cash.
Officers found more illegal tobacco at the shop during further visits on April 17 and July 10. The court heard Gully had evaded paying around £4,000 in duty.
Ian Howard, mitigating said Gully had only been running the shop for a few months before the visit.
Mr Howard said: “The business was still very much in its infancy and to a certain extent he was finding his feet.”
The court was told Gully now made sure all goods were legitimate and had built up the turnover to £78,000 a year which made it a viable business.
Mr Howard said his client had not installed the hydraulic door behind which some of the items were stored and had only taken advantage of its security.
Gully, 35 of Crown Flatts Way, Dewsbury was convicted of fraudulent trading, nine offences of possessing items with false trademarks and three charges failing to display signs following a trial at Leeds Magistrates’ Court.
He was given a six week jail sentence suspended for 12 months with 200 hours unpaid work.
He was also ordered to forfeit £1,000 and pay £4,391 in court costs
Judge Sally Cahill QC told him: “There was clearly some sophistication involved, they found illegal products hidden behind a hydraulic door.”