A STOCKTON shopkeeper covered packets of counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco with coffee in an attempt to throw sniffer dogs off the scent, a court has heard.
Mohammed Bouchaab then hid the stash in the lids of fridges at the back of the Berushka shop on Hartington Road.
But his elaborate plot came unstuck when Trading Standards officers from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council conducted a search with a sniffer dog in March last year.
With the help of the dog, the officers discovered 880 counterfeit cigarettes and eight pouches of hand rolling tobacco.
Bouchaab, 37, of Ruby Street, Darlington, appeared before Teesside Magistrates yesterday (April 4).
The court also heard that Bouchaab had already received a written warning for similar offences.
In one such case in June 2015, 8,000 counterfeit cigarettes – again covered in coffee – were discovered by a sniffer dog in a secret compartment built into the counter of the shop.
Access was operated by a remote control and when Bouchaab refused to advise how it worked, the counter had to be dismantled to seize the illicit goods, which were destroyed.
He pleaded guilty to three offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994 and five under the Consumer Protection Act 1987.
In mitigation, Bouchaab’s defence said the products seized in March were relatively small in quantity, sold for a small profit, and that Bouchaab did not have an affluent lifestyle.
He was ordered to pay a £450 fine, a £30 victim surcharge and £1739.90 in legal costs.
Councillor Steve Nelson, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Access, Communities and Community Safety, said: “Mr Bouchaab went to great lengths to conceal his sale of counterfeit cigarettes but it wasn’t enough to outfox the specially-trained sniffer dogs our officers use when conducting these searches.
“The sale of counterfeit goods damages legitimate, hard-working traders and counterfeit tobacco 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 found in Mr Bouchaab’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 very seriously.”
To report the sale of illegal tobacco or unlicensed alcohol contact the Council’s Trading Standards team on 01642 526560.