“Problem premises” in court again for illegal tobacco sales

The new owner of a shop with a history of selling illegal tobacco has admitted to possessing smuggled cigarettes with an intent to supply following a prosecution brought by Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards.

On Monday, November 25 Sabah Haji-Khalil, boss of Matean Market, 128 Hollow Way, Cowley admitted to 4 offences at Oxford Magistrates’ Court.

He was joined in the dock by his former employee, Ismaeel Abdul-Kareem, who also pleaded guilty to 2 offences relating to the physical sale of the contraband items.

The Court heard that on the 29 September 2018, an undercover sting resulted in the sale of 11 packets of Polish Marlboro Gold cigarettes for £66 from Matean Market, seller Abdul-Kareem asking the customer to leave the shop while the cigarettes were retrieved from a hidden area.

On the 13 November 2018 another test purchase of Polish Marlboro Gold cigarettes was made, this time for £6.50, with a further 260 illegal cigarettes being seized shortly afterwards after they were discovered hidden in an e-cigarette display case.

Shop boss Haji-Khalil, 38, of Hollow Way claimed in interview to have no knowledge that his staff were selling illicit tobacco from his premises or why the money from these sales went into the till.

Sales assistant, Abdul-Kareem, 47, of Nowell Road, Oxford admitted in interview that he had sold the smuggled cigarettes. He admitted it wasn’t the only time he had done so.

The Court fined Abdul-Kareem a total of £730 in fines and costs and Haji-Khalil a total of £1330 in fines and costs.

Abdul-Kareem was caught earlier this year attempting to smuggle over 80,000 illegal cigarettes with unpaid duty and VAT of £28,334 into the UK via Manchester airport. He admitted to the fraudulent evasion of excise duty in a case brought by HM Revenue & Customs and was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for two years, at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court on 25 March.

This is not the first time that individuals involved with the Matean Market store have appeared before the Courts in relation to contraband tobacco sales.

Head of Oxfordshire Trading Standards, Jody Kerman, said: “The 25 packets of illegal cigarettes in this case have ultimately cost the defendants over £2000. Criminals peddling their illicit wares should be under no illusion that whenever we find this type of unlawful activity, we will clamp down on it”.

Tobacco fraud is reported to cost the UK nearly £2 billion a year whilst treating smoking-related illnesses costs the NHS over £2 billion annually.

Retailers selling illegal tobacco could lose their alcohol licence, face unlimited fines and be jailed for up to 10 years. Shop staff involved in the physical sale of illegal tobacco can also face unlimited fines and imprisonment.

Anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco should contact 0300 999 6 999 or report it anonymously via the website www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk


Matean Market continues to trade at Hollow Way, Cowley