Illegal tobacco haul lands shopkeeper with suspended jail term

A Leeds shopkeeper has been given a suspended prison sentence for possessing with intent to supply a large stash of cheaply priced, illegal cigarettes and tobacco with a total street value of £13,000.

Honar Jafar Rafik, owner of the Bolek I Lolek and Tola stores in Dewsbury Road, received a 16-week jail term, suspended for 12 months, at Leeds Magistrates’ Court earlier today having pleaded guilty to the offences.

In total, Rafik admitted having in his possession with intent to supply more than 63,000 illegal cigarettes and 4,900 grams of illegal hand-rolling tobacco.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The case was brought by West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service whose officers acted on intelligence from members of the public to carry out inspections on premises operated by Rafik earlier this year.

Trading Standards officers first made a test purchase of hand-rolling tobacco from Bolek I Lolek on March 7 and found the foreign-labelled product to be counterfeit. Officers were charged just £2.50, far cheaper than the estimated recommended retail price for a genuine packet of £18.

A day later and officers, together with staff from detection dogs specialist Wagtails UK, conducted an inspection of both stores. They found illicit tobacco under the counter at Bolek I Lolek and also in a freezer in an upstairs store room at Tola.

More than 3,200 tobacco products were seized and examined, some were foreign labelled and non-UK duty paid. None bore the statutory health warning as prescribed by UK law - which is an offence under the Consumer Protection Act 1987.

The rest of the stash was confirmed as counterfeit by the trademark holders, in contravention to the Trade Marks Act 1994.

The estimated street value of the tobacco products is £13,000. Rafik told the court he bought them for approximately £7,500.

As well as a suspended prison sentence, the shopkeeper was ordered to pay £2,739.72 towards prosecution costs, a fine of £3,000 and an £80 victim surcharge.

David Lodge, head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said he was pleased that cheap, illegal tobacco was off the streets.

“The work of Trading Standards plays an important role in helping to prevent smoking and reduce the risks for smokers of heart disease, stroke and cancer,” Mr Lodge said.

“People may be tempted by the cheap price tag but it’s worth considering the great cost to your health, safety and community.”

Councillor Pauline Grahame, deputy chairman of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards, added: “We want to see health improvement in this county and with poor and disadvantageous communities and young people often the target of this cheap tobacco, it does not encourage people to quit.

“Offenders need to know that they will face consequences if they choose to deal in these illegal products. I would urge anyone with information on sales of illegal tobacco products to contact the Illegal Tobacco Hotline on 0300 999 0000.”