Shopkeeper fined after 8,800 illicit cigarettes and 9.35kg of hand rolling tobacco seized in raid
A shopkeeper found in possession of illicit tobacco worth thousands of pounds has been ordered to carry out 250 hours unpaid work.
Balraj Singh Takhar, 49, owner of Lifestyle Express store at Blackhall Colliery, was also ordered to pay £585 having been prosecuted by Durham County Council.
Newton Aycliffe magistrates heard how the council’s trading standards team executed three warrants - at the store, on Middle Street, a storage container and Takhar’s home in Keating Close, Blackhall Colliery,
The court heard 8,800 illicit cigarettes and 9.35kg of hand rolling tobacco were seized – worth between £3,250 and £3,690.
The court was told Takhar claimed he was a heavy smoker and all the items seized were for personal use.
The goods were subsequently confirmed as counterfeit by the trademark holders and the packaging did not to comply with safety warning requirements.
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The council subsequently issued a closure notice on the store which it claimed was a nuisance to the community.
In court, Takhar pleaded guilty to eleven offences - three under the Trade Marks Act, five of contravening Tobacco and Related Products Regulations and three of breaching Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations.
In mitigation, magistrates were told the number of counterfeit items was small and that Takhar had been trying to sell them back to the person that had supplied them to him.
Takhar was sentenced to a 12-month community order with a requirement that he complete 250 hours of unpaid work, and pay £500 costs and an £85 victim surcharge.