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Lowestoft convenience store owner Ahmed Shokoulty fined for selling illegal tobacco from Bevan Street East shop

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A Suffolk shop owner has been fined for selling illegal tobacco after around 2,000 cigarettes were seized from the store during a raid.

Ahmed Shokoulty, 36, proprietor of Town Mini Market in Lowestoft's Bevan Street East, appeared at Ipswich Magistrates Court today, after being charged with breaching tobacco packaging regulations.

It came after Suffolk Trading Standards received intelligence that Shokoulty was selling illicit tobacco at his store, and subsequently carried out a test purchase, during which illegal tobacco was sold to an undercover operative posing as a customer.

A Lowestoft shop owner has been fined for selling illegal tobacco. Picture: Suffolk Trading Standards (57545485)
A Lowestoft shop owner has been fined for selling illegal tobacco. Picture: Suffolk Trading Standards (57545485)

Following the sting, a raid was carried out by Suffolk Trading Standards in September 2021 as part of a national initiative in partnership with HMRC to tackle illegal tobacco - Operation CeCe.

This resulted in 2,000 cigarettes and more than 7kg of hand rolling tobacco being seized.

The seized tobacco did not comply with tobacco packaging regulations and contained health warnings which were not written in English, as well as the packaging itself being of an incorrect colour.

Town Mini Market, Lowestoft. Picture: Google Maps
Town Mini Market, Lowestoft. Picture: Google Maps

In total, Shokoulty was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay a £190 surcharge and £3,302.50 in costs.

Cllr Andrew Reid, cabinet member for public health and public protection, thanked those involved for tackling illegal tobacco.

"I am delighted with today’s prosecution and would like to thank officers from Trading Standards for their continued commitment to ridding Suffolk of illegal tobacco trading," he said.

“We know that illegal tobacco has been linked to organised crime, with this often acting as a gateway into the drug supply chain and people trafficking, making it far from a victimless offence.

“Consumers can play their part in stopping this by reporting illegal tobacco – helping keep it off the streets, putting pressure on sellers and sending a clear message that this crime will not be tolerated in Suffolk.”

Trading Standards have the following advice for things to look out for to avoid inadvertently purchasing illegal tobacco:

  • A lack of health warnings on the packet
  • Unknown brands
  • Prices that look too good to be true
  • Packaging that isn’t plain olive green or contains text that is not in English

Wendy Martin, director of National Trading Standards, said: “The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law.

"Having removed 13 million illegal cigarettes, 4,300kg of hand rolling tobacco and almost 110kg of shisha products from sale in the first year of the operation, the National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC continues to successfully disrupt this illicit trade.”

Anyone who suspects the sale of illegal tobacco in Suffolk can report this in confidence to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.

For information on how we can report on court proceedings, click here