A SHOPKEEPER has been fined after police found thousands of illegal cigarettes at his premises.

The illegal tobacco was found at the Easy Shop in Darlington's Victoria Road in September 2019.

Hemin Hussain Mohammed, 34, of Wilson Street, Darlington, who owns the shop, pleaded guilty to supplying conterfeit cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco when he appeared at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court on January 14

The case was the fifth prosecution following Operation Sirenian, a multi-agency operation led by Darlington Borough Council’s trading standards officers aimed at tackling the supply of illegal tobacco in the town.

Mr Mohammed, admitted one offence of possessing for supply counterfeit cigarettes and three charges relating to Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015, when he appeared before Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 14 January.

He was fined £240 and ordered to pay £706 costs and a £32 victim surcharge.

The courts also granted a forfeiture of all the products seized.

When officers visited the shop in September 2019, they found carrier bags hanging behind the counter, which contained packs of illegal hand rolling tobacco.

In a stockroom at the rear boxes and bags were discovered containing illegal cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco.

In total 748 packs – containing 14,960 cigarettes – and 116 packs , or 5.8 kg of hand rolling tobacco, were seized from the Easy Shop, with an estimated value, based on loss to the economy, of £11,693.

Councillor Jonathan Dulston, Darlington Borough Council’s deputy leader, said: “Our trading standards team has worked very hard with partners on Operation Sirenian which has seen several successful prosecutions in an effort to keep these illegal products off our streets.

“They will continue to monitor and visit stores which sell illegal cigarettes, often at pocket money prices and have little or no regard for the age of their customers.

"You can help them by reporting anything of concern to trading standards, anonymously if you wish.”

Shaun Trevor, fair trading and financial investigations officer with Darlington Borough Council, said Operation Sirenian had seen a total of 11,614 packs of cigarettes seized by officers, along with 1,025 packs of hand-rolling tobacco.