South East Wales

750,000 illegal cigarettes gang caught in Newport

Tahar Mohammed Image copyright Newport Council

About 750,000 illegal cigarettes and 300kg of tobacco worth more than £425,000 was seized in "one of the most significant" trading standards investigations of its type in Wales.

It focused on a gang operating out of a Newport city centre shop, which was caught selling Lithuanian cigarettes.

Gang leader Tahar Mohammed, 38, owned the flat above the shop and a chute was used to supply cigarettes on demand.

Newport council said he was jailed for three years at Cardiff Crown Court.

Mohammed admitted handling and selling more than £427,000 worth of smuggled and counterfeit tobacco.

Shopkeeper Feryad Mohammed Abdul- Kadir, 33, received 20 months after admitting the same charges

Many of the cigarettes were found at Mohammed's home address in Bristol along with a storage unit and at the Eastern European Food shop on Commercial Road in June 2015.

The estimated duty and tax evaded was £300,000.

Image copyright PA

The men, along with two others who worked in the shop, initially claimed little or no knowledge of each other but evidence disproved those claims.

Workers Richard Jendrejcak, 41 and Burham Karim, 37, both received suspended sentences.

John Cooper, Fraud Investigation Service assistant director at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, said: "This gang thought they had a foolproof way of hiding their activity and could profit from selling illegal tobacco.

"Tobacco smuggling robs communities of vital public funds and harms the livelihood of legitimate retailers.

Newport council's cabinet member for regulatory functions, Bob Poole, said the prosecution was "a real achievement for all those involved and sends out a very clear message to anyone who thinks they can profit from the sale of counterfeit goods".

"We have launched a campaign to make our city a 'Fake Free Newport' and this case represents just how prolific and profitable these illegal activities can be," he added.

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