A large-scale illicit tobacco operation has landed two of those involved with community orders from Teesside Crown Court.

Middlesbrough Council’s Public Protection Service has pledged to continue its crackdown against an illegal trade that puts lives at risk and blights communities.

Trading Standards officers found and seized more than 17,180 illicit cigarettes and 2.2kg of hand-rolling tobacco during a visit to Euro Supermarket on Gresham Road in May, 2019. 

The seizures included tobacco found in the store and from vehicles linked to the premises, a tactic aimed at avoiding detection by enforcing authorities.

The Northern Echo: Euro Supermarket on Gresham Road in Middlesbrough. Picture: GOOGLE MAPSEuro Supermarket on Gresham Road in Middlesbrough. Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

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The cigarettes and tobacco were found to breach product safety and labelling requirement, lacked health warnings and some of the haul was counterfeit. 

Reza Salehpoor, 30, of Parliament Road, Middlesbrough and Hawmund Mohmudi, 24, of Stonehouse Road, Middlesbrough, pleaded guilty to offences in relation to counterfeit tobacco, labelling not displaying required health warnings and plain packaging offences and appeared at Teesside Crown Court for sentence on Friday (July 29).

They were each sentenced to a 12-month community order with ten rehabilitation days and ordered to undertake 80 hours of unpaid work for their part in the sale of illicit tobacco.

Judith Hedgley, Middlesbrough Council’s Head of Public Protection, said: “The sentencing in this case recognises the harm to the public, local businesses and to the community that large-scale organised illicit tobacco operations cause. 

“We will continue to carry out focused operations that target retailers and individuals who seek to gain from selling illicit tobacco products.”

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Councillor David Coupe, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Public Protection, said: “Selling cheap illicit tobacco especially to young people, which can then get them hooked, is an orchestrated crime that acts against the measures in place to reduce the prevalence of smoking. 

“We know the supply of illicit tobacco into Middlesbrough is linked to organised crime so our Trading Standards Officers work in partnership with regional and national agencies to tackle this problem and protect local people and businesses.” 

Anyone with information on the sale of illicit tobacco from any business or residential premises in Middlesbrough can report it to Trading Standards on 01642 728223 or email the Public Protection Service at EHTS@middlesbrough.gov.uk

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