East Ham shop owner fined over sale of illicit tobacco
PUBLISHED: 12:19 03 March 2014 | UPDATED: 12:20 03 March 2014
A shop owner who repeatedly sold unmarked tobacco even after it was seized has been fined £4,000.
Ismail Yusuf, 48, was visited at his Alppa Paan shop in High Street North, East Ham, three times by HM Revenue and Customs officers, and tobacco was seized each time.
He was also caught at Heathrow Airport on March 12 last year trying to smuggle 30,000 beedi cigarettes, Indian cigarettes that are thinner than conventional cigarettes, into the UK. A total of £8,699.97 of duty was avoided in total from all four offences.
Yusuf, of Priest Park Avenue, South Harrow, pleaded guilty to three licensing breaches and one count of possessing prohibited goods with intent to defraud Her Majesty.
Barkingside Magistrates’ Court heard HMRC officers first visited his shop on March 6, 2011, and seized 1,100 unmarked cigarettes and 450 beedi cigarettes.
In a second visit on October 23, 2012, 1,467 cigarettes and 650 beedis were removed, while on April 26 last year, 4,680 cigarettes and 2,040 beedis were seized.
Chairman of the bench, magistrate Adele Judt, said: “We were thinking about custody and thinking about community work but we decided not to.”
Instead, a fine of £2,500 was imposed for the offence at Heathrow Airport and a further £500 for each of the other three offences.
Yusuf was also ordered to pay £85 costs and £120 victim surcharge.
A destruction order was issued for the seized unmarked cigarettes.
Jennie Kendall, spokesman for HMRC, said: “This illegal trade has to stop.
“It is robbing the UK economy of vital funds, around £2 billion a year, which is money that can be used for vital public services.”
She encouraged anyone who suspects people or businesses are evading tax to call the hotline on 0800 595000.