Shop owner in court after tobacco raids

Bispham Bargains
Bispham Bargains
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A businessman found with fake and unsafe tobacco at his Blackpool shop has been given a suspended prison sentence.

A court heard how Trading Standards officers seized items during a visit to 
Bispham Bargains, owned and run by Zahid Chaudhry, in June 2013.

Then, during a further visit in February last year, they found counterfeit bags of Golden Virginia tobacco.

Chaudhry, 33, had admitted two offences of unauthorised use of a trademark and two others of offering to sell unsafe products.

David Traynor, prosecuting at Preston Crown Court, said the case related to the shop Bispham Bargains, on Red Bank Road, owned and run by the defendant.

Mr Traynor told the court: “The prosecution cannot say he was the only person in the area selling counterfeit tobacco, but it shows the scale of the problem, when someone is selling cheap counterfeit imported cigarettes”.

He said another shop owner became aware that the store was selling cigarettes.

Trading Standards were contacted and, on June 25, 2013, an officer went to the shop and said a search would be conducted. Chaudhry was not there at the time, but an employee was.

In a rear store room a quantity of cigarettes and tobacco was found, partially hidden behind shelving.

There were 54 counterfeit pouches of Golden Virginia. They had been made to look almost identical to the real thing, said Mr Traynor.

There were also 80 packs of Master cigarettes and 72 packs of Jin Ling, which is not legally sold by anyone in this country and would not therefore have passed a required safety test.

In interview, Chaudhry said the items seized belonged to a staff member who had since left, leaving the cigarettes and tobacco on the premises.

But early last year there were reports the shop was still selling cigarettes. Trading Standards officers paid a visit on February 13.

The defendant was leaving the shop as they arrived. On the sales floor there were 31 packs of Golden Virginia which were counterfeit.

The defendant went on to claim to officers that the second goods seized must have been missed during the earlier search. He had found them while cleaning up, had intended giving them to a friend but had not got round to it.

The prosecution had tried to locate the person who was said to have had links with the shop, but failed.

Chaudhry had no previous convictions. Iain Simkin, defending, said his client had now lost his good name.

He was a small businessman, married with a family.

He paid himself a weekly salary of £150 which had to cover household expenses.

The barrister added: “People can make very poor choices. This is a very poor choice.

“These are serious offences, not least because of the risk of setting fire to something which is not constituted in the right way. He was not involved in the manufacturing of these items”.

The judge said traders needed to know such offences would be taken seriously.

Chaudhry, of Bala Close, Blackburn, was given eight weeks’ prison, suspended for two years, with 60 hours’ unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £500 costs.