A hoard of illicit cigarettes were found concealed in a ceiling space during a search of a city centre foodstore, a court was told.
Liverpool Magistrates Court hears that officers from the city council’s Alcohol and Tobacco unit and Merseyside Police visited Marmaris Foodstore in London Road in July 2013.
Ahmed Rasool, the owner of the store and a director of Marmaris Foodstore Ltd was present
Officers searched the premises and on the second floor one saw a ladder placed against the wall and on climbing up it was able to move the ceiling panel in the suspended ceiling.
The officer found 1,026 packets of Marlboro Red cigarettes, 377 packets of L&M Red cigarettes, 459 packets of MG, 263 packets of Marlboro Gold cigarettes, 440 packets of Pect cigarettes, 319 packets of Goal cigarettes, 110 packets of Viceroy cigarettes, 101 packets of Viceroy Blue and 950g of Golden Virginia hand rolling tobacco hidden in the ceiling space – a total of 67,000 cigarettes worth £25,000. None carried the required health warnings.
Under caution Rasool admitted to buying the cigarettes off people who had brought them back from abroad. He said he sold them to poor people who could not afford the normal ones claiming the UK puts too much tax on them.
Marmarise Foodstore Ltd and Rasool pleaded guilty to 10 counts of supplying cigarettes without health warnings.
District Judge Shaw fined Rasool and the limited company £750 each, awarded £690 costs to the City Council and ordered forfeiture and destruction of the cigarettes seized.
Dr Sandra Davies, Interim Director of Public Health, said: “Liverpool has one of the highest levels of lung cancer and smoking related deaths in the country. Selling smuggled cigarettes undermines smoking cessation programmes and allows easy access to cigarettes particularly by those who are too young to buy legitimately and would not be able to afford them.
“This retailer clearly knew what he was doing was wrong and this result sends a clear message to anyone thinking of involving themselves in this trade to beware as strong enforcement action will be taken.”