AN HMRC decision to ban a retailer from selling tobacco for six months has been welcomed as a “powerful tool” in the fight against illicit trading.

Ary Mohamed of the Smaczny Polski Sklep in Deane, Bolton, was one of 50 retailers raided by HMRC and police officers as part of an operation named Operation Scary.

Officers seized almost 12,000 cigarettes, tobacco and shish tobacco from a hidden shelf behind the counter as well as a store room.

We hope this acts as a deterrent and proves to law-abiding retailers that action against the illegal trade is ongoing

JTI

It represented almost £4,800 of unpaid duty. Mohamed was given a six-month tobacco sales ban plus fines and costs of more than £2,800 after admitting one count of selling unmarked product.

JTI welcomed the sentence, saying: “We applaud the use of a six-month banning order in this case – a powerful tool available to Revenue & Customs.

“We hope this acts as a deterrent and proves to law-abiding retailers that action against the illegal trade is ongoing.”

Elsewhere, in February, a Newport store owner was jailed for 32 months, another Bolton retailer got an eight-month suspended sentence, stores in Sutton-in-Ashfield and Preston lost their alcohol licences and another Preston retailer was given 200 hours of unpaid work for their involvement in illegal tobacco.

Meanwhile, HMRC unveiled illicit tobacco seizure figures for the six months between April and September last year. It seized more than 600million cigarettes and 137 tonnes of tobacco with a taxable value of £232m.

Retail Express is running a Smoke Them Out campaign to raise awareness of the illicit trade. If you know someone who is selling illegal tobacco, let us know anonymously on 020 7689 3379.