Shopkeeper who purchased illegal cigarettes from a ‘mystery supplier’ ordered to pay more than £2,700

A Harrow company and its director, caught with a haul of illegal cigarettes has been ordered to pay £2,796.

A joint operation by Brent and Harrow Trading Standards and HMRC seized the suspect cigarettes following a tip off that Cargo Imperial Food Ltd (who traded as Diana) were selling illegal cigarettes.

A sniffer dog uncovered the stash of cigarettes hidden in the back of the Rayners Lane premises. Under interview, the sole company director Traian Zgripcea, 44, admitted he’d bought them for cash from an unknown man who visited his shop.

Cllr Varsha Parmar, cabinet member for environment said:

“This local shopkeeper took a punt on some dodgy fags hoping to make a quick buck. Just imagine his surprise when Pippa the specially trained sniffer dog started taking an interest in what he had out back. Pippa’s nose doesn’t lie. Thanks to her work and that of her human colleagues, the illegal stock has been forfeited and Zgripcea must now face the consequences of his poor business decision.”

The seized cigarettes did not contain one of the legally required health warnings and were packed in the old style coloured and branded packaging which is no longer permitted. 

Simon Legg, Head of Brent & Harrow Trading Standards Service said:

“These rules were introduced by government to make smoking less attractive and warn smokers of the serious harms. Using a sniffer dog allows our officers to search business premises much quicker and find stocks of tobacco. I hope this penalty sends a strong message to anyone else who thinks they can operate like this, we’ll do the same if caught.”

The case was heard at Willesden Magistrates Court on 6 August. Fines totalling £1,260 were brought against the company and its director, who also had to pay costs of £1,536.

Alison Chipperton, assistant director, HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service, said:

“HMRC works closely with other enforcement agencies to crack down on illicit tobacco in the UK. Partnership working with Trading Standards is vital in order to share intelligence and collaborate on joint exercises such as this and target those areas with the highest levels of illicit tobacco activity."

If you know of a business selling illegal tobacco, you can report it to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.

Published: September 2nd 2019