Former Cowley shop worker guilty of fake cigarette possession

A former shop worker who admitted to possessing smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes with an intent to supply has pleaded guilty following a prosecution brought by Oxfordshire County Council’s trading standards team.

On Friday 25 March, Mohammed Sheiho Zawiti, who previously worked at Matean Market in Cowley, appeared before Oxford Magistrates’ Court. 

The court heard that the council’s trading standards team visited the Hollow Way store on 6 May last year, as part of Operation CeCe – a national trading standards initiative in partnership with HMRC, which is playing a significant role in disrupting the illicit tobacco trade. They discovered 400 illegal cigarettes behind the counter. 

An Audi A4 registered to Zawiti was also searched, and a further 5,420 cigarettes discovered. Brands included Marlboro, Benson & Hedges, Richmond and Rothmans. Car being searched for illegal cigarettes

Samples of each subsequently confirmed that the cigarettes were counterfeit.

Zawiti, 46, of Troy Close, Oxford, pleaded guilty to all eight offences and was ordered to pay a total of ÂŁ3,780.87 in fines and costs. The court also ordered forfeiture and destruction of the seized cigarettes.

Jody Kerman, Oxfordshire County Council’s Head of Trading Standards, said: "We are serious about taking action whenever we find anyone selling illegal tobacco. Its sale not only avoids taxation – which means less money for schools, the NHS and local communities – it also undermines legitimate businesses in Oxfordshire and puts money into the hands of criminals."

Tobacco fraud is estimated to cost the UK around ÂŁ2 billion a year while treating smoking-related illnesses costs the NHS over ÂŁ2 billion annually. Oxfordshire is aiming to become a smoke free county by 2025. Read more about the plans by visiting  oxfordshire.gov.uk/public health

Reports can be made anonymously by calling 0300 999 6 999 or visiting stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk.

More information

  • As part of Operation CeCe, in the last 12 months Oxfordshire County Council has seized nearly 750,000 illegal cigarettes and nearly 60,000 grams of illegal hand-rolling and shisha tobacco.
  • Mr Zawiti is the fifth person prosecuted in relation to illegal tobacco and Matean Market.

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