On the 5th of October 2023, Mr Muhammad Nabaaz, hailing from Bradford, appeared at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates Court for sentencing in his capacity as the Director of Wibsey Local Ltd. This followed his prior admission of guilt to charges concerning the possession of counterfeit cigarettes, a violation of trademark regulations. These cigarettes were devoid of standardised packaging and did not bear health warnings in English. Additionally, Mr. Nabaaz acknowledged his guilt in the matter of having disposable electronic cigarettes with a tank capacity exceeding the prescribed 2 ml available for supply. These transgressions occurred at his establishment, Wibsey Local Ltd, situated at 222-224 High Street, Wibsey, Bradford BD6 1QP, on the 8th of November 2021.

During the preceding hearing in May 2023, Mr. Nabaaz pleaded guilty on behalf of the company. Consequently, the company was fined £8000, with an additional £5000 in costs, and a Victim Surcharge of £190. These infractions were made under The Trade Marks Act 1994, The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015, and The Tobacco and Related Product Regulations 2016. In his capacity as the responsible director of the business, Mr. Nabaaz was sentenced to 200 hours of unpaid work to be completed within a twelve-month period. Consideration was given for his early admission of guilt. He was also directed to pay a surcharge of £95 and costs amounting to £960. Furthermore, the Court granted a Forfeiture Order for the destruction of the confiscated items.

The case was initiated subsequent to the receipt of complaints by the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service (WYTSS) regarding the sale of illicit cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco on the premises. In November 2021, officers from the Cheap and Illicit Tobacco team at West Yorkshire Trading Standards conducted a visit to the premises, discovering approximately 600 packs of cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco, along with roughly 2000 oversize disposable electronic cigarettes. A subsequent visit by the West Yorkshire Police in January 2022 resulted in the seizure of further illicit tobacco, which was handed over to West Yorkshire Trading Standards for processing as part of the initial investigation.

In his mitigation, Mr. Nabaaz, through his solicitor, conceded in court that he was aware of the illegality of the cigarettes and tobacco. However, he considered the disposable electronic cigarettes to be legal since they were openly available for sale at wholesalers in Manchester. As a result, he openly displayed them in his shop.

David Strover, West Yorkshire Trading Standards Manager said, “Far from being a victimless crime, the illegal trade in tobacco costs government millions each year in lost revenue, makes it easier for children to start smoking, takes advantage of cash-strapped families, and helps fund organised crime including human trafficking. 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 Sue Duffy, Deputy Chair of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards said, “All tobacco is harmful, but the supply of illegal tobacco seriously undermines the drive to reduce smoking, fuels organised criminality and is often a gateway for young people to becoming addicted to a habit which prematurely kills over half its users.”

If you need to report a trader selling cheap and illicit tobacco, please contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline at 0808 223 1133 anonymously.

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