A sniffer dog was the toast of trading standards after smoking out illegal cigarettes and tobacco hidden inside a Wisbech shop.
Shopkeeper Awat Bebakir had stashed the counterfeit goods in a concealed compartment of his store, Europe Shop in Blackfriars Road, but he was caught red-handed when the sniffer dog quickly found them.
At King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court, Bebakir was ordered to carry out 100 hours of community work after he admitted hiding the tobacco inside his shop.
He pleaded guilty to selling counterfeit tobacco under the Trade Marks Act and two offences of selling cigarettes without the proper labels.
Around 3,820 incorrectly labelled cigarettes and 700g of counterfeit Amber Leaf tobacco was found at the shop by Trading Standards on May 15 last year.
The court heard the illicit goods may have been missed in a search if it was not for the dog supplied by Wagtail International.
Magistrates sentenced Bebakir to 100 hours of unpaid work for each of the three offences, to be served concurrently, and ordered him to pay £1,200 towards prosecution costs as well as a £15 victim surcharge.
The joint operation was carried out by Cambridgeshire County Council Trading Standards and Cambridgeshire Police.
Aileen Andrews, acting head of service for Cambridgeshire County Council Supporting Businesses and Communities service, said: “There are no checks on what goes into counterfeit tobacco and people have no idea what they are getting when they buy it. We work closely with Cambridgeshire Police and now by using sniffer dogs are finding hidden illegal and counterfeit tobacco and cigarettes. We hope this acts as a warning to other traders.”
Val Thomas, public health consultant at the county council, said: “We work very closely with our Trading Standards officers and are pleased their diligent action has resulted in this illegal tobacco being withdrawn. We know that traders in illicit tobacco target the poorest communities and vulnerable young people with cheap affordable tobacco. It can encourage the uptake of smoking and does not support those who are trying to quit.
“The work of Trading Standards plays an important role in helping to prevent smoking and reduce the risks for smokers of heart disease, stroke and cancer. We want to see health improvements in this county and with poor and disadvantaged communities and young people often the target of this cheap tobacco, it does not encourage people to quit. Offenders need to know that they will face consequences if they choose to deal in these illegal products.”