Wisbech shopkeeper who tried to conceal counterfeit tobacco and illicit cigarettes caught red handed by sniffer dog
PUBLISHED: 11:35 22 January 2016 | UPDATED: 11:35 22 January 2016
A sniffer dog was the toast of trading standards after his detection work saw a Wisbech shopkeeper ordered to carry out unpaid community work for selling counterfeit tobacco and incorrectly labelled cigarettes.
Awat Bebakir hid the illicit stock inside his Europe Shop in Blackfriars Road but the sniffer dog quickly found it.
At King’s Lynn magistrates court Bebakir was ordered to carry out 100 hours of community work after he admitted hiding the tobacco inside his shop.
Bebakir pleaded guilty to selling counterfeit tobacco under the Trade Marks Act and two offences of selling cigarettes without the proper labels.
Around 3,820 cigarettes which were not properly labelled and 700g of counterfeit Amber Leaf tobacco was found at the shop on May 15 last year.
A trading standards spokesman said: “The tobacco and cigarettes were hidden in a concealed compartment in the shop and may have been missed in a search if it was not for the dog supplied by Wagtail International.”
The joint operation was carried out by Cambridgeshire County Council Trading Standards and Cambridgeshire Police.
Magistrates sentenced Bebakir to 100 hours of unpaid work for each of the three offences to be served concurrently and he was ordered to pay £1,200 towards prosecution costs as well as a £15 victim surcharge.
Aileen Andrews, acting head of service for Cambridgeshire County Council Supporting Businesses and Communities service, said: “There are no checks on what goes into counterfeit tobacco and people have no idea what they are getting when they buy it.
“We work closely with Cambridgeshire Police and now by using sniffer dogs are finding hidden illegal and counterfeit tobacco and cigarettes. We hope this act as a warning to other traders.”
Val Thomas, public health consultant at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “We work closely with our trading standards officers and are pleased their diligent action has resulted in this illegal tobacco being withdrawn. We know that traders in illicit tobacco target the poorest communities and vulnerable young people with cheap affordable tobacco. It can encourage the uptake of smoking and does not support those who are trying to quit.
“The work of trading standards plays an important role in helping to prevent smoking and reduce the risks for smokers of heart disease, stroke and cancer.
“We want to see health improvements in this county and with poor and disadvantageous communities and young people often the target of this cheap tobacco, it does not encourage people to quit.
Cost of tobacco fraud to UK
Tobacco fraud costs the UK £2billion a year in lost taxes which should be spent on public services.
Wagtail International, the company used to help sniff out the illicit goods, are the UK’s leading specialists in detection dogs and dog handler training.
The firm, based in Flint in North Wales, provide expertly trained dogs and dog teams for the detection of explosives and firearms, drugs, cash, tobacco, illegal immigrants, cadaver and hydrocarbons as well as rescue dogs for mountain and urban disaster and personal protection.
A spokesman for Wagtail said: “Dogs are the most reliable and consistent factor in the detection of illegal substances and firearms, and are effective in searches of people, transport and property. With the rise in the drugs trade and an escalation in terrorism, we provide specialist detection dogs globally.”
Typical clients include the Police, Immigration and Customs (the UK Border Agency), the Ministry of Defence, high profile blue-chip companies and UK sporting venues.
“We provide services internationally across the Middle East, Africa, the Far East, Mainland Europe and North America.”
“Offenders need to know that they will face consequences if they choose to deal in these illegal products.”