Posted on: Tuesday 9 November 2021
A Pontypool shop owner has appeared in court after counterfeit tobacco and cigarettes were discovered behind a false wall.
Torfaen Trading Standards Officers visited a business trading as Ponty Market, on Osborne Road, in February 2020, following a complaint. They discovered £2,200-worth of illegal cigarettes and tobacco hidden behind an electronically-operated wall.
The find came after officers previously found £1,744-worth of counterfeit and foreign cigarettes in a secret compartment in a table at a business operated by the same owner, in Commercial Street, in September 2019.
Illegal tobacco valued at £391 was also found concealed in a gas cooker at the premises during a joint operation with HMRC officials in December 2019.
In total, 4,480 illegal cigarettes and four kilograms of tobacco were seized from the shops owned by Mohammed Ahmad. It was estimated the value of the fraud was up to £100,000.
An investigation found some of the cigarettes and tobacco pouches were counterfeit, which means they were produced illegally and often carry additional significant health risks, and others were foreign brands that cannot be sold in the UK.
It also found Ahmad was the director of a number of companies including Ponty Market Elf Ltd and Vivid Profit Ltd, based in Pontypool, and Quick 1 Shop, in Caerphilly, where counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco had been sold.
On Friday, Ahmad, of Fford Ottoway, Cardiff, appeared in Cardiff Crown Court after previously pleading guilty to operating a fraudulent business and selling illegal, counterfeit and foreign labelled duty avoided cigarettes and tobacco.
He was sentenced to a 12-month suspended sentence, 250 hours of unpaid work, 6 days of rehabilitation activity, and disqualified from being a company director for 5 years. He was also ordered to pay £3,768 costs within 6 months.
The judge also ordered forfeiture and destruction of the illegal tobacco.
Councillor Mandy Owen, Executive Member for Neighbourhoods, Planning and Public Protection, said: “The sentence is a clear indication of how seriously these offences are viewed by the court.
"The sale of counterfeit goods is not a victimless crime. The council’s Trading Standards Officers play an important role in safeguarding consumers and genuine businesses in Torfaen from risks connected with the sale of counterfeit goods, and the unfair commercial advantage gained by dishonest traders.
"Officers continue to work hard, undertaking inspections and investigations to identify potential breaches of trading standards laws, in the interest of consumer protection."
Anybody with information on individuals selling counterfeit goods can contact the Trading Standards Service in confidence on 01633 647624 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.