Shopkeeper sentenced after illegal tobacco was discovered under shop counter

North Somerset Courthouse. Picture: Mark Atherton

North Somerset Courthouse. Picture: Mark Atherton - Credit: Archant

A Weston-super-Mare shopkeeper has been sentenced for selling counterfeit and untaxed tobacco.

Ari Omar Abdullah was caught by Trading Standards stashing the goods under the counter and stairs in at the Euro Zone Market store, in Meadow Street, in September last year.

Abdullah, of Yardley Way, ‘very foolishly’ bought the illegal tobacco from customers returning from holidays in eastern Europe and sold it for profit in an effort to make ends meet.

It was the second time he has been convicted of selling illegal products as he received a community order for similar offences in 2015.

Abdullah, aged 38, appeared at North Somerset Courthouse on August 22 to be sentenced for 15 counts relating to selling tobacco which breached packaging regulations and health warning rules.

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The court heard Euro Zone Market was regularly inspected because of his previous offence, and Trading Standards found 375 packages with tobacco products hidden in his shop in 2017. In total, 66 of the packs were counterfeit.

He admitted to the offences straight away when questioned by police, and told them he had not placed the tobacco in the sale gantry as he was ‘afraid of the taxman’ as he had not paid tax on them. He pleaded guilty to the 15 offences in July.

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Emmi Wilson, defending Abdullah, said: “It was a recent operation.

“The first reason customers approached him is the tobacco is much cheaper for the consumer, and so if the market for these products is there, it will not surprise the court to hear those who wish to purchase it would encourage a local shop to sell it.

“He was struggling very much financially, which is another reason why perhaps customers would have identified him as an appropriate reason to supply products in the area.

“He was keeping the shop open for long hours and doing his best to make ends meet.

“When the opportunity was presented to him, he very foolishly took it.

“He was not using it to fund a lavish lifestyle, but to make ends meet. He has expressed genuine regret and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.”

Magistrates imposed a 12-month community order, and he must carry out 100 hours of unpaid work.

He was also fined £1,500 and must pay £85 in victim surcharge.

The counterfeit tobacco will be destroyed.

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