Barber shop owner caught with 88,000 counterfeit cigarettes is jailed

A Hull barber shop owner has been jailed after being found in possession of tens of thousands of counterfeit cigarettes.

Appearing at Hull Crown Court on 23 March, Ari Ali, of William Street, Hull, pleaded guilty to the unauthorised use of trade marks in relation to goods, and was sentenced to 22 weeks in prison.

On 22nd November 2019, Trading Standards Officers accompanied by Humberside Police attended T&H Container Storage Limited on Leads Road, Hull, following intelligence that a person renting a unit there was storing illicit tobacco. 

During their inspection, officers discovered 88,800 counterfeit cigarettes bearing the Richmond brand in a unit rented by 37-year-old Ali. These were all seized and were subsequently confirmed as counterfeit by the brand holder.

Cardboard boxes full of counterfeit cigarettes found in the storage unit

The court heard that Ali had a previous conviction for a similar offence in 2016.

In passing sentence, His Honour Judge Bury said only a sentence of immediate custody would reflect the seriousness of the offence.

He said the defendant had deliberately decided to continue with his behaviour for economic benefit and that those who sought to deprive the revenue and trade mark holder must expect to serve an immediate sentence of custody, particularly when they had a history of similar offences.

Judge Bury said the custody threshold had been passed and therefore instant imprisonment was unavoidable.

He warned the defendant to make sure he did not reoffend in this way again, saying that it did not make economic sense and was not worth the risk.

A forfeiture order was made for the goods seized and Ali was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £122.

Rachel Stephenson, Head of Public Protection at Hull City Council, said: “The sale of illegal tobacco may seem like a victimless crime, but this is not the case. Cheap illicit tobacco undermines the effectiveness of taxation, makes it harder for smokers to quit, provides availability to encourage children to start smoking and helps fund organised crime.

“This custodial sentence should be a warning to others who supply illegal tobacco. Trading Standards officers take offences like these extremely seriously, as do the courts.

“We encourage everyone to report illegal tobacco sales and help reduce the harm and ill health caused by tobacco in our communities.”

If you suspect illegal tobacco is being sold in your community, report it anonymously here or call 0300 999 0000.

If you have concerns about food you have bought or seen for sale, notify Trading Standards by calling 0345 4040506.

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