Sarbast Hassan, who now lives at Essex Street, Hull, was sentenced at Hove Crown Court on Tuesday, July 12 after pleading guilty at Hastings Magistrates Court in March to the possession of counterfeit cigarettes for sale and possessing non UK duty paid hand rolling tobacco and cigarettes.
Trading Standards Officers found the illegal tobacco after conducting three inspections in 2020, including one with a tobacco trained sniffer dog, at a shop where he worked, the Aryian Mini Market on Brassey Avenue in Eastbourne. The shop is now under new ownership.
The hand rolling tobacco and cigarettes were found hidden in various concealments including under the floor of the shop’s rear stock room and behind wall panelling.
The 32-year-old admitted ownership of the items with a view to sale. The estimated total retail value of the illegal tobacco from all three inspections was £10,374.
Richard Strawson, East Sussex Trading Standards manager, said: “This conviction is another warning to those involved in the sale of counterfeit tobacco that we are committed to finding and prosecuting those who persist in this illegal activity.
“We take the supply of illegal tobacco very seriously and will do everything in our power to tackle this problem and protect our residents.”
Darrell Gale, Director of Public Health in East Sussex, added: “There are an estimated 57,000 smokers in East Sussex and, each year, approximately 1,000 deaths in the county are attributable to smoking.
“Most smokers started before they were 18 and illegal tobacco is sold at pocket money prices getting local children, in the poorest parts of the county, addicted to tobacco, perpetuating the cycle of health inequalities.
“Public Health will continue to work with Trading Standards and other partners across the county to tackle illegal tobacco, protecting our communities from tobacco addiction and its related harm.”
Sentencing Hassan, the judge HHJ Gold QC said: “These are serious matters involving the trade of illicit goods. I consider it so serious that only a custodial sentence will suffice.”
A forfeiture and destruction order was made for the tobacco seized. Hassan was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,644.
Members of the public are encouraged to play their part in helping East Sussex Trading Standards and Public Health keep illegal tobacco products off the streets by reporting anything suspicious.
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