The former operator of a Stockton convenience store has been handed a community order for selling counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco, and unlicensed alcohol.
34-year-old Kurosh Asemani, former operator of European Foods on Hartington Road in Stockton, was prosecuted by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council at Teesside Magistrates’ Court today (13 October).
The court heard that European Foods’ premises license was revoked by the Council’s Licensing Committee in October 2014 after becoming a focal point for anti-social behaviour.
But when Trading Standards officers made test purchases at the shop on 20 January and 22 January 2015 they were sold alcohol, packets of counterfeit cigarettes and counterfeit hand rolling tobacco.
Trading Standards officers searched the premises on 29 February 2015 with a tobacco dog and Cleveland Police officers and recovered 8,460 counterfeit cigarettes and 1.65kg of counterfeit hand rolling tobacco from a concealed compartment inside the shop.
Officers found the tobacco products did not display the legal safety warnings and photographs as required by UK legislation.
Mr Asemani, of Sovereign Close, London, pleaded guilty to five offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994, two offences under the Licencing Act 2003 and six offences under the Consumer Protection Act 1987.
He also pleaded guilty to selling alcohol without an appropriate license.
In mitigation, Mr Asemani said he was not aware of what was going on in the shop but should have taken more responsibility for his own business.
He was given a 12 month community order of 140 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay £350 in costs and a victim surcharge of £60. A forfeiture order was made for the seized items to be destroyed.
Councillor Steve Nelson, Cabinet Member for Access, Communities & Community Safety at Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, said: “All tobacco is harmful but counterfeit products are particularly dangerous because they can’t always be traced back to a reputable source. The safety regulations are in place to protect members of the public. The products sold in Mr Asemani’s shop did not meet these requirements and as a result he put his customers at risk.
“Our residents’ safety and the reduction of crime is of utmost importance to us and we take all reports of counterfeit products seriously. I would encourage any residents who have information about illegal tobacco or unlicensed alcohol to contact Trading Standards on 01642 526560.”