On the 1st October 2021, Mr Omed Omar from Huddersfield appeared at Kirklees Magistrates Court for selling illicit cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco from his business Kingsgate News, 14 Cross Church Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2PT. Mr Omar pleaded guilty to committing offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994 and carrying out a business contrary to section 9 of the Fraud Act 2006 and was sentenced to a 12 month community order with a requirement to perform 150 hours unpaid work. He was also ordered to make a £500 cost contribution, due to his current financial circumstances and a £90 victim surcharge.
The premises was well known to West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service (WYTSS) with the Service having received complaints about the premises supplying illicit and duty free tobacco.
An inspection was carried out at Kingsgate News in September 2019 and illicit tobacco was seized from within the business. A search of the store was conducted and two concealments of illicit cigarettes were found hidden in wall voids. There was a concealment in the wall just off the sales area, at the base of the stairs leading to the first floor. This contained packets of cigarettes of various brands. There was also a concealment containing sleeves of cigarettes which hold 10 packets each, in the wall of one of the first floor rooms. The total amount of tobacco items seized was 407 x 20 packets of cigarettes and 50 x 50g pouches of hand rolling tobacco.
The seized illicit tobacco products were counterfeit, did not bear the statutory health warnings, were not in the standardised packaging and were non duty paid. Warnings to stop the illegal activity were ignored and in October 2019 illicit tobacco was again seized from inside the business.
In the small storage area just off the sales area a black screw was noticed protruding from the ceiling above the stairs, leading down into the cellar. This screw was not protruding like this when the store was last inspected in September. Closer inspection of this area revealed it had been adapted to hide a concealment of illicit tobacco. The concealment was in the form of a draw which slid out on runners into the stairway when you pulled on the screw. The total amount of tobacco items seized was 60 x 20 packets of cigarettes and 3 x 50g pouches of hand rolling tobacco.
The total amount seized was over 9,000 cigarettes and more than 2.5kg of hand rolling tobacco.
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 nearly 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, “This case shows how seriously the courts view these sales and this should serve as an example to others who might break the law and risk children's health. It is also linked to organised crime and contributes to an underground economy worth billions of pounds. Victims of human trafficking are often being forced to sell these illegal products in order to pay off debts or fearing harm to themselves or their families.”
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