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 Councilâ€™s trading standards team.
On Friday 25 March, Mohammed Sheiho Zawiti, who previously worked at Matean Market in Cowley, appeared before Oxford Magistratesâ€™ Court.
The court heard that the councilâ€™s trading standards team visited the Hollow Way store on 6 May last year, as part of Operation CeCe â€“ 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.
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 Councilâ€™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 â€“ which means less money for schools, the NHS and local communities â€“ 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.
- 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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