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Trader ordered to pay £85,726 for selling illicit tobacco

Published: Tuesday, 3rd October 2017

A Birmingham trader, who was found to have illicit tobacco in his shop, has been ordered to pay £85,726 at Birmingham Crown Court today (3 October 2017).

Cigarettes hidden in shop ceiling
Some of the cigarettes found hidden in the shop ceiling

Reza Nozmiyeh, 49, of Paganal Road, Weoley Castle, who ran Venus International off licence at 247 Dudley Road, Winson Green, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing (21 November 2016) to four offences under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, Tobacco Products (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 2007, Licensing Act 2003 and Trade Marks Act 1994.

A confiscation order of £85,726 was made, which Nozmiyeh must pay within three months, along with a default prison sentence of 18 months if he fails to do so.  He must also complete 120 hours unpaid work within 12 months and a forfeit all cigarettes and tobacco seized by officers on 7 October 2015.  At an earlier hearing (7 October 2016) Birmingham Magistrates Court had ordered forfeiture of £1,953.50 seized cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Birmingham City Council brought the case against Nozmiyeh after Trading Standards officers, working with West Midlands Police, raided the premises on 7 October 2015 and found 579 packs of illegal cigarettes with an estimated street value of approximately £3,000.

More than 500 packs of cigarettes were hidden behind ceiling tiles and sniffer dogs also found packs of cigarettes stashed in a hidden compartment behind the counter. Officers also seized 32 packets of illegal hand rolling tobacco, with an estimated street value of £200.

The haul included counterfeit Mayfair cigarettes, along with cheap foreign labelled products that breached consumer protection legislation and were non-duty paid - which cannot be legally sold in the UK.

There are strict labelling requirements in the UK, including statutory health warnings and photographic images, but on the packs seized these warnings did not include photos.

Supplying such goods is considered serious under the Licensing Act 2003 and consequently a review of Venus International’s premises licence was heard by the city council’s Licensing Sub-Committee on 15 December 2015, who decided to revoke it.

Cllr Barbara Dring, Chair of the city council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “This was a significant seizure, given the amount of illicit tobacco found in this relatively small shop. The business went to great lengths to conceal these illicit tobacco products, which cannot legally be sold in the UK.

“It doesn’t matter how well hidden products may be, detection dogs can find tobacco and cigarettes hidden in the most unlikely places. Offenders need to know that they will face consequences if they choose to deal in these illegal products.

“Those involved in dealing in illegal tobacco may be encouraging people, including children to smoke by providing a cheap source. This activity also brings crime into our neighbourhoods, which is why it is important to clamp down on it, as this also impacts on those businesses that are trading legally.”

Since Birmingham City Council took action against Nozmiyeh, he sold the shop to a third party and the business is no longer trading.