‘Pressure’ to sell illegal cigarettes

Date published: 26 March 2014

A SHOPKEEPER sold counterfeit and illegally-packaged cigarettes and tobacco because he felt under threat by suppliers and rivals, Oldham Magistrates heard yesterday.

Rana Mohammed Akram (56) of the RMA Newsagent’s in Coleridge Road, Oldham, pleaded guilty to three charges of possessing cigarettes, tobacco and pipe products without health warnings for supply, and two charges of possessing counterfeit Golden Virginia and Amber Leaf hand-rolling tobacco for sale.

The court heard a rival shop, a Polish contact and illegal Liverpool dealers operating in Oldham were all factors in his offending.

Solicitor Ruth Crimmins, prosecuting for Oldham Council, said trading standard officers seized 11,400 Dodgers King Size cigarettes, 4.5kg of Golden Virginia Classic hand-rolling tobacco and 27 Royal Blunts (used in Asian pipe smoking) at Akram’s shop last July. None of the packets carried the health warnings the law demands. They also found 22 packets of counterfeit Golden Virginia and 25 packets of counterfeit Amber Leaf hand-rolling tobacco.

Akram claimed a friend said tobacco packaging laws were the same across all EU countries and he didn’t check the trademarks.

Tim Hughes, representing Akram, said the shop’s trade had struggled in recent years and Mr Akram was pressured into taking more by a “rather large, muscular gentleman”, but the profit was tiny.

Mr Hughes added that the suppliers later demanded £2,000 for the goods and if he didn’t pay, “things would happen”.

Akram pleaded guilty to all five charges and was fined £1,000, ordered to pay £1,040 court costs and a £20 surcharge.

A SHOP owner said he received illegally-packaged cigarettes from a man in a van and mistakenly put them on display.

Mohammed Faraz Khurram (28) of Lees Road Newsagents, pleaded guilty to seven charges of possessing for supply cigarettes, hand-rolling tobacco and pipe products without health warnings.

He was fined a total £700 for the seven offences and ordered to pay £1,105 costs and a £20 surcharge.

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