‘Pressure’ to sell illegal cigarettes

From: Oldham Evening Chronicle

A SHOPKEEPER sold counterfeit and illegally-packaged cigarettes and
tobacco because he felt under threat by suppliers and rivals, Oldham
Magistrates heard yesterday.

Rana Mohammed Akram (56) of the RMA Newsagent’s in Coleridge Road,
Oldham, pleaded guilty to three charges of possessing cigarettes,
tobacco and pipe products without health warnings for supply, and two
charges of possessing counterfeit Golden Virginia and Amber Leaf
hand-rolling tobacco for sale.

The court heard a rival shop, a Polish contact and illegal Liverpool
dealers operating in Oldham were all factors in his offending.

Solicitor Ruth Crimmins, prosecuting for Oldham Council, said trading
standard officers seized 11,400 Dodgers King Size cigarettes, 4.5kg of
Golden Virginia Classic hand-rolling tobacco and 27 Royal Blunts (used
in Asian pipe smoking) at Akram’s shop last July. None of the packets
carried the health warnings the law demands. They also found 22 packets
of counterfeit Golden Virginia and 25 packets of counterfeit Amber Leaf
hand-rolling tobacco.

Akram claimed a friend said tobacco packaging laws were the same across all EU countries and he didn’t check the trademarks.

Tim Hughes, representing Akram, said the shop’s trade had struggled in
recent years and Mr Akram was pressured into taking more by a “rather
large, muscular gentleman”, but the profit was tiny.

Mr Hughes added that the suppliers later demanded £2,000 for the goods and if he didn’t pay, “things would happen”.

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