A SHOPKEEPER has been fined after thousands of illegal cigarettes were found at his business.

Officers from Durham County Council’s trading standards team seized more than 3,200 counterfeit and illicit cigarettes and 1.2kg of illicit rolling tobacco during an inspection of The Winestore, in Blackhall Colliery, in August last year.

The stash, which was unearthed following a complaint about the business, was being stored in wine boxes next to the counter.

The council says the packs and sleeves, which included brands such as Mayfair, Richmond, Lambert and Butler and Superkings, were clearly counterfeit as they did not contain the appropriate health warnings.

Business owner Kamran Adil was present when the inspection took place but refused to attend an interview with officers from trading standards.

In a written statement, the 47-year-old, who has a previous conviction for a similar offence, said the cigarettes were for his own use and not for supply to others.

However, a search of Adil’s mobile phone found text messages indicating that he did intend to sell the counterfeit items.

Adil, of Halterburn Close, Gosforth, pleaded guilty to five counts of possession of counterfeit cigarettes in relation to 520 of the cigarettes that were seized.

In mitigation, the court heard the goods were not on display and that Adil was a heavy smoker who had been under considerable pressure in his personal life at the time of the inspection.

Follow ups by officers in December and February found no further issues.

Magistrates at Newton Aycliffe fined him £750 and ordered him to pay £722.77 in costs and a £75 victim surcharge.

Owen Cleugh, Durham County Council’s consumer protection manager, said: “Our officers will continue to investigate anyone selling illegal tobacco from either retail or domestic premises.

“Sellers found to be breaking the law will be brought before the courts and face a fine or even possible imprisonment.”

Anyone with information about the possible supply of illegal tobacco can contact the confidential reporting line on 0300 999 0000 or visit www.keep-it-out.co.uk.