A STORE owner sold “under the counter” illicit tobacco products on a “professional” basis for about a year, a court heard.

But it was the trade in counterfeit cigarettes and rolling tobacco which led to Ismail Maulud carrying out a knife attack in a doorstep confrontation with an in debt “customer”.

He was jailed for a total of 30 months at Durham Crown Court, 12 months for the counterfeit tobacco sales and 18 months consecutively for the knife attack.

Phillip Morley, prosecuting, said during the autumn of 2017 test purchase officers from Durham County Council’s trading standards department made several visits to Westlea Mini Market, in Seaham, where they were able to buy cheap packets and sleeves of various counterfeit tobacco brands, all in packaging not bearing the current Government health warning.

Mr Morley said on one visit Maulud’s partner Catherine Flanagan sold a sleeve of ten packets of 20 cigarettes to a test purchase officer for £80.

A search made at the store in December, 2017, led to the recovery of large quantities of illicit tobacco products, while Maulud’s phone was also seized, revealing messages from customers seeking cheap cigarettes.

The court heard following the attack on a man with a £170 debt to Maulud, at the back door of his home in Meadow Avenue, Blackhall Colliery, in October, last year, further searches were made and more illicit tobacco products were recovered from a car parked outside.

In total, from the two searches, £21,465 worth of cigarettes and rolling tobacco were recovered.

The victim of the knife attack suffered a cut to the back of the neck, but it was only after he visited a minor injuries clinic for treatment the next day that police were notified.

Maulud, 41, admitted supplying counterfeit tobacco but denied charges arising from the assault. He was convicted, however, of assault causing actual bodily harm and making threats with a bladed article, following a trial earlier this year.

Will Byne, mitigating, said the defendant turned to making the illicit sales due to poor trading figures at the shop and the bulk of the sale was to a small number of regular customers.

Jailing Maulud, Recorder Simon Eckersley said it was fortunate more serious injuries were not inflicted in the knife attack

He described the illicit tobacco sales as “professional” offending, which continued even after the initial seizures at the shop.

Recorder Eckersley imposed a three-month community order, on Flanagan, 39, also of Meadow Avenue, after she admitted a single count of selling counterfeit products, but on one day only, believing they were old stock.