A shop trader and an employee have admitted trademark offences over the sale of illicit tobacco products at a village convenience store.

Farzad Moradi and Sartip Sharefbayiani will be sentenced later this month having admitted three charges each brought by Durham County Council’s licensing department.

The pair appeared before Durham Crown Court yesterday (Thursday, November 2) facing offences arising from a period of four months in 2021, when they operated or worked at the Lifestyle Express, in Middle Street, Blackhall Colliery.

The Northern Echo: Lifestyle Express store in Middle Street, Blackhall, which was made subject of a temporary closure

Although assisted by a Kurdish Sorani interpreter, the court was told both had a good understanding of English and it was only certain technical or legalistic phrases that they would require translating.

Charges were put alleging conspiracy to sell goods, all tobacco products, bearing an unauthorised trademark, conspiring to supply tobacco products contravening standard packaging, plus conspiring to supply tobacco products breaching requirements over health warnings, all said to have taken place between May 26 and September 8, 2021.

Both Moradi, 29, of Meath Street, Middlesbrough, and his 36-year-old co-accused, of Silkeborg, in Denmark, put in guilty pleas to all three counts.

Chris Morrison, for Moradi, said a document has been presented to the court outlining details and circumstances of his offending.

Nicci Horton, for Sharefbayiani, put in a basis of plea, stating he was not involved in the original purchasing of the offending tobacco products.

The document outlining the basis stated he was not involved in the running of the business and was a part-time worker, employed by Moradi.

He also said that when he began working at the premises he was unaware the offending tobacco products were counterfeit but became aware of it after a short time working there and continued to assist his colleague.

Judge Jo Kidd asked for preparation of background probation reports on both defendants prior to sentence.

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She said it was important that both assist the Probation Service in the drawing up of the reports.

Miss Horton said it may prove difficult for her client, given that he lives in Denmark, but the court heard arrangements would be made for an online meeting between him and the probation worker preparing the report.

Judge Kidd said she would make “no promises” as to the likely sentence for both defendants, who were granted continued bail, to return to the court for sentence on November 29.