Illicit Tobacco Dealer Sent To Prison

Wednesday 19 January

On the 18th January 2022, Mr Honar Rafik from Leeds, appeared at Leeds Crown Court for the involvement of his businesses in the trading of illegal tobacco. Bolek I Lolek & Tola, 223-227 Dewsbury Road, Leeds, LS11 5HZ and Carpatica, The Romanian Shop, 235 Dewsbury Road, Leeds, LS11  5HZ.

Mr Rafik pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a 6 month custodial sentence for each trademark offence, a 1 month custodial sentence for the packaging offences, all to run concurrently.

The premises were well known to West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service (WYTSS), with the Service having received many complaints about the premises supplying illicit and duty free tobacco.

On 8th March 2016, inspection visits were conducted by West Yorkshire Trading Standards at Bolek I Lolek & Tola. Both of these businesses were owned by the defendant Honar RAFIK. The total amount seized was 3,156 x 20 packets of cigarettes (63,120 sticks) and 98 x 50g packets (4.9kg) of hand rolling tobacco.

On 23rd November 2016, Mr Rafik appeared at Leeds Magistrates Court for offences relating to the seizure of illegal tobacco. Mr Rafik pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a 16 week custodial sentence suspended for 12 months.

Warnings to stop the illegal activity were ignored. WYTSS inspected the businesses of Mr Rafik 4 more times and seized illegal tobacco on each occasion. The seized tobacco which was counterfeit, did not bear the statutory health warnings, was not in the required standardised packaging and was non duty paid.

The most recent visit was 22nd March 2021, when the total amount of illegal tobacco seized from the two premises was 5,291 x 20 Cigarettes (105,820 Sticks) & 22 x 50g HRT (1.1kg). All 5,313 items seized were not in the standardised format as required by The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015. The seized items were also in violation of the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016, as the prescribed health warnings were not present in English. The loss of excise duty on the seized tobacco would have been around £35,000.00.

Most of the illegal tobacco seized was being stored in the area above Bolek I Lolek, including the roof void which was accessed through a hole in the wall, hidden behind a wardrobe.  A number of the sleeves of cigarettes were in the packaging of exercise balls to conceal their presence and assist with their illicit transportation.

The Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health Programme, funded by the five Public Health departments, is helping people to stop tobacco use for good by educating the public and by investigating traders who supply cheap and illicit tobacco. The initiative uses multi-agency enforcement and community marketing campaigns to tackle the problems of the illicit trade.

To date, the programme has taken more than 8 million illicit cigarettes and more than two and half tonnes of illicit hand rolling tobacco off the streets of West Yorkshire. With more inspections planned in the coming weeks, these figures are set to increase. Training sessions with thousands of members of the public and hundreds of front line professionals have been delivered to raise awareness about the dangers and wider criminality associated with the supply of illicit tobacco.

Linda Davis, West Yorkshire Trading Standards Manager said, “Far from being a victimless crime Illegal Tobacco trading creates a cheap source for children and young people and encourages adults to continue smoking by eroding cost motivation to quit. It is also linked to organised crime, human trafficking and contributes to an underground economy worth hundreds of millions of pounds. This case shows how seriously the courts view these sales. This should serve as an example to others who might break the law and risk children's health. I would like to thank all the partners and members of the public for reporting illegal sales and encourage everyone to continue doing so to reduce the harm caused by tobacco in our communities.”

 

Councillor Pauleen Grahame, Member of the West Yorkshire Joint Services which oversees the work of Trading Standards said, “We are committed to the fight against cheap and illicit tobacco. By taking tough action and working with partners, these inspections took significant amounts of illicit tobacco off the streets. Illicit cigarettes and tobacco are usually sold at a fraction of the price in a range of locations such as pubs, clubs, shops, private houses and even by street hawkers. Illicit tobacco undermines the age and price restrictions placed on tobacco and also encourages people to continue smoking.”

If you need to report a trader selling cheap and illicit tobacco please contact the Illegal Tobacco Hotline on 0300 999 0000 or report it at https://keep-it-out.co.uk/ anonymously.

More information about the campaign can be found on the website and anyone wanting help to quit can find their local Stop Smoking Service at

https://www.nhs.uk/smokefree