Leyland illicit tobacco stash found in cotton bag and tin behind shop counter

Two staff members at a shop were prosecuted after illicit hand rolling tobacco was found in a locked metal tin behind the counter, and more in a cotton bag behind the counter.

Azeem Patel, owner of J&C Bargain Stores in Leyland, and sales assistant Ian Whittle, were prosecuted after test purchases by Lancashire Trading Standards between 2017 and 2019.

Illicit tobacco found at J and C Bargain Stores, Leyland - Credit: Lancashire Trading Standards

Illicit tobacco found at J and C Bargain Stores, Leyland - Credit: Lancashire Trading Standards

Patel already has a similar conviction, and despite the new investigation, when officers returned to the store in September they discovered further illegal products, Preston Magistrates’ Court was told.

Patel admitted two offences which related to three test purchases and two seizures of illicit tobacco from the store between November 2017 and September 2019.

Whittle, 26, of Brook Close, Leyland admits two offences of aiding and abetting his employer.

Prosecuting, Claire Box said: “The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Regulations set out stringent rules for cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco for how such a product may be packaged which includes for example the colour of the packet, the size and the font of used for any text on the packet.

Illicit tobacco found at J and C Bargain Stores, Leyland - Credit: Lancashire Trading Standards

Illicit tobacco found at J and C Bargain Stores, Leyland - Credit: Lancashire Trading Standards

“These regulations aim to make smoking less attractive to adults and children but as illicit packets tend to be found to be sold at around half the price of legitimate packets this makes the habit more accessible.

“ The lower price also makes it difficult for law abiding retailers to compete and deprives the taxman of duty and VAT of over £6 per pack of illicit cigarettes and £11 per pack of tobacco sold.”

Whittle got a 12 month conditional discharge and must pay a £20 surcharge and £305 costs. Patel will be sentenced on January 29.