Director handed suspended sentence after Suffolk Trading Standards undertake illegal tobacco investigation


The director of a Suffolk shop has been handed a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to supplying illegal tobacco from behind the counter.

PRL Express Limited, based in Haverhill High Street, was charged with breaches of the 1994 Trade Marks Act and General Product Safety Regulations. The company’s director, Mustapha Hamadamin was also charged with the same offences in respect of his role as the director of the company.

Hamadamin pleaded guilty to all charges and was given a 12-week prison sentence suspended for 18 months, as well as being ordered to pay £2,400 in costs. PRL Express Limited received a £100 fine along with forfeiture and destruction of all goods

Suffolk Trading Standards officers made four visits to the store between June 7 2016 and December 21 2016.

The first visit was based on intelligence and advice was provided to the store. Following this, a further three visits were made, with around 1000 packs of illegal tobacco seized. With each visit, the illegal tobacco became increasingly concealed, using modified cupboards and roof space to store stock.

Samples of Amber Leaf, Winston Blue and Marlboro Red, among other brands, were sent to trademark holders for examination, and were found to be counterfeit. A total of 281 trademark infringing packets were seized. Samples were also sent for testing to check they complied with the European safety standard of self-extinguishing when not being smoked. A total of 348 packets of cigarettes failed to comply with this standard.

Councillor Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for environment and public protection, said:

“Hamadamin made a conscious effort to further conceal his illegal tobacco stocks every time our officers made a visit to his premises and was uncooperative during the course of the investigation.

“These cigarettes, while cheap, are often extremely dangerous and are sold at hugely discounted prices. Those who sell illegal tobacco do not discriminate on who they sell to and children are therefore able pick up these products easily and could become addicted.

“Cigarettes sold legally also provide vital tax revenue so the public purse is protected by keeping illegal products off the streets and out of stores.

“Those found to be storing, selling or distributing illegal tobacco could also face losing their alcohol licence if they hold one, as well as being prosecuted.

“I would urge anyone who is aware of a premise selling illegal tobacco or cigarettes to report it in confidence by contacting Trading Standards on 0345 4040 506.”

A second retailer, 32-year-old Hedi Ibrahim, trading as IKI Grocery Store in Franciscan Way, Ipswich, pleaded guilty to charges of violations of the 1994 Trade Marks Act and the 2006 Fraud Act as well as for breaches of general product safety regulations and tobacco and related products regulations. He will be sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court at a later date.