A driver stopped on the A1(M) in County Durham was found to be in possession of almost 30,000 cigarettes and six kilograms of hand-rolling tobacco, all considered counterfeit.

Kiwan Ali was subject of the stop-check at junction 60 of the A1(M), at Bradbury, when he was signalled to pull over as he drove an Audi A3 northbound at 9.50pm, on June 10, last year.

Durham Crown Court was told Ali was the sole occupant and an officer informed him he had grounds to suspect he was in possession of drugs.

He said he was returning to the North East from Castleford, in West Yorkshire, and when told the car would be subject of a search on suspicion he was in possession of drugs, Ali was asked if the officers would find anything illegal.

The Northern Echo:

Annelise Haugstad, prosecuting, said at this, the defendant replied, “Yes, tobacco,” but he claimed it did not belong to him.

He was cautioned and arrested, and he repeated that the consignment of tobacco was not his and that he was merely taking it, “back to Newcastle”.

Ali claimed there were, “a couple of boxes”, but he said he was, “not sure”, exactly how much.

Miss Haugstad said £1,100 found on Ali was seized from him, while the search revealed 16,400 cigarettes purporting to be Richmond brand, 13,200 marked as Rothmans-make, plus 6kg of supposed Turner hand-rolling tobacco, in the car.

The respective genuine manufacturers of those brands confirmed all were counterfeit and none confirmed with UK health-warning packaging.

The Northern Echo:

Ali, 46, of Chepstow Gardens, Gateshead, admitted eight counts relating to trademark and packaging breaches, all charges brought by Durham County  Council's licensing department.

Miss Haugstad said the defendant’s only previous conviction related to the test purchase sale of illicit tobacco products from, “under the counter”, at a store he previously ran, in 2017.

She said the defendant claimed he made little profit from those premises and he closed the shop within 14 days of his arrest on that occasion.

John Crawford, in mitigation, said the £1,100 seized from the defendant in the latest case was returned to him by police.

He said the role he played in this case, as a courier, placed him in a lower bracket of sentence range for such offending.

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Judge Jo Kidd intervened and told Mr Crawford she would be passing an 18-month community order on the defendant but with 30 rehabilitation activity days working with the Probation Service.

She ordered the defendant to pay £1,500 towards the costs of the case, at the rate of £130 per month.

The judge also ordered forfeiture and destruction of all the seized tobacco products.