Illegal cigarettes fines too small, says Spalding trader
A Spalding shopkeeper rocked by four burglaries in as many months has slammed the sentence given to a town store manager for possessing illegal cigarettes.
Asgar Vanparekh, co-owner of Classic News in Sheep Market, called for “bigger penalties” after Salar Ekhbal Azizie, manager of Nasza Biendronka, also in Sheep Market, was told to pay a total of nearly £2,600 by Lincoln magistrates last month.
Azizie, of Russell Street, Loughborough, was convicted of four charges relating to possessing 3,640 illegal ciagrettes and tobacco “with a view to gain for yourself or another, or with intent to cause loss to another” after a trial on January 23.
He was fined £525 and ordered to pay total costs of £2,052 after previously denying all four charges at a hearing last October.
But Mr Vanparekh said: “Shops that sell alcohol and tobacco legally are suffering because of those that thrive on selling illegal products.
“There needs to be bigger penalties for such shops because customers don’t think about whether cigarettes are illegal or not.
Shops that sell alcohol and tobacco legally are suffering because of those that thrive on selling illegal products so there needs to be bigger penalties for such shops because customers don’t think about whether cigarettes are illegal or not
“As long as it’s cheaper, we can’t stop people buying them and even if you fine one shop manager, they keep changing over so that someone else will take over and start selling illegal goods again.
“You can’t believe that this is happening and everybody knows that businesses like mine are suffering all the time.
“But we don’t have any answers and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.”
Previous managers of Nasza Biendronka were stripped of their licence to sell alcohol by South Holland District Council in January 2016 after a raid by police and trading standards officers one month earlier.
More than 2,240 illegal cigarettes were found during the raid which led Sergeant Kim Enderby, of Lincolnshire Police’s alcohol (licensing) team, to describe the store’s activities as “unacceptable criminality, using the shop as a front”.
An appeal against the panel’s decision was dropped in June 2016 at the same time as Azizie told our sister newspaper, the Spalding Guardian that he had taken over as the store’s manager.
Julie Grant, of Swineshead, who has campaigned against illegal cigarette sales ever since her mother June Buffham died in a house fire in Spalding nearly six years ago that was linked to illicit tobacco, said: “In my opinion, the fine given to Azizie is an absolute joke and I’m not convinced that a financial penalty for those found guilty of selling these products is enough of a deterrent to them or others doing the same thing.
“When my Mum died in the house fire, the cause of which was due to a brand of cigarette named JING LING which she was smoking before dropping it onto her chair, I vowed to share awareness of the dangers of these products.
“Since 2012, there have been other fire deaths both locally in Spalding and nationally associated with these illicit tobacco products and on a daily basis there are news stories in the press and online from all over the UK where retailers are being caught selling them.
“This has usually come about when members of the public have given local authorities information regarding suspected sales which I applaud.
“I would encourage the public to contact their local trading standards department or CrimeStoppers online if they have any suspicions.”
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