A BOGNOR Regis shopowner has been given a suspended prison sentence after he was found with hundreds of illicit cigarettes he was selling.
Akar Ali, who owns Euro Express in Canada Grove was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, by magistrates.
They also ordered Mr Ali, of Huntly Road in Peterborough, to pay costs of £3,752.04 and an £80 victim surcharge.
He appeared at Chichester Magistrates’ Court last Wednesday charged with seven offences under the Tobacco Products (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale) Act, two under Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regs and two under the Trade Marks Act after an investigation by West Sussex trading standards officers.
They related to the seizure of nearly 800 packets of cigarettes and nearly 100 packets of rolling tobacco from his business and van during an 18 month period.
Lionel Barnard, West Sussex County Council’s cabinet member for residents’ services with responsibility for trading services, said: “There is no room in West Sussex for illegal tobacco.
“It causes the same health problems as ordinary tobacco but it is also associated with organised crime. So, we will do everything we can to stamp it out in our communities.
“We are sending a clear message to businesses that, where illegal tobacco is found, it will be seized, destroyed and the people who peddle it will be prosecuted as a result.”
Trading standards officers began their investigation in October 2013. They seized 216 packets of cigarettes and four packets of rolling tobacco found hidden on shelving behind a cupboard.
In March 2014, officers found more than 300 packets of cigarettes and 20 pouches of tobacco hidden in a sunken plastic crate in the floor of the stock room following a tip off.
That was followed last July when officers seized another 250 packets of cigarettes from under the passenger seat of a white Mercedes van parked outside Euro Express.