AN illegal tobacco trader caught with dodgy cigarettes has been ordered to pay back profits of more than £14,000 – or face prison time.
Hedy Shekha, from St Vincent’s Road, St Leonards, was convicted in January after detection dogs sniffed out £73 worth of fake cigarettes at a shop he owned in Hastings, and was given a 12 month community order.
Now the 33-year-old has been given just three month to pay back £14,459.73 or face 12 months in jail after East Sussex County Council successfully obtained a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act
Cllr Bill Bentley, lead member for communities and safety said: “The sale of illegal tobacco is an extremely serious issue, which can be linked to organised crime and criminal gangs involved in money laundering and people trafficking.
“As well as undermining legitimate traders carrying out their business in accordance with the law, the sale of illegal tobacco can present additional health risks to smokers tempted to buy the goods at pocket money prices.
“This order should send a clear message that we will do everything in our power to disrupt the sale of illegal and dangerous tobacco in our county and take back the profits from these crimes.”
Shekha was prosecuted by East Sussex Trading Standards after 21 packs of cigarettes were found hidden in an under stairs cupboard in his shop – Delboys in Castle Street, Hastings. The shop is now under new ownership.
A repeat offender, Shekha was ordered by a judge earlier this year to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work and pay costs of £712 after admitting selling tobacco illegally bearing the trademarks of well-known brands and not complying with UK law which requires plain packaging on cigarettes.
Due to the nature of the offence, East Sussex Trading Standards were able to look at Shekha’s finances and apply to take back any income believed to relate to crime.
While the council’s Financial Investigator discovered that Shekha could have benefited from his criminality by more than £88,000, only £14,459.73 could be found. If the county council can find more assets, they can apply for more.
Anyone with information about illegal tobacco sales is urged to report it by calling the illegal tobacco helpline on 0300 999 6999 or online at www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk