A business owner has been sentenced to more than 200 hours of unpaid work for selling illicit cigarettes, tobacco and vapes following investigations by City of Wolverhampton Council.

Mazin Abdullah, owner of Aro Market & Bakery in Staveley Road, hid the counterfeit products behind the shop counter, in a concealed compartment and in a rear storeroom. 

The illicit items, which included 29,535 cigarettes, 169 vapes, 1.75kg of hand rolling tobacco and 3.3kg of shisha, were discovered during a joint raid by the council’s Trading Standards officers, West Midlands Police and sniffer dogs from B.W.Y Canine.

In total, Abdullah pleaded guilty to 13 offences: one under The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Regulations 2015, 5 under The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 and 7 under the Trade Marks Act.

He was sentenced to 220 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay costs of £2,265 during the hearing at Dudley Magistrates Court on May 1.

Abdullah had been visited by officers from City of Wolverhampton Council on a number of occasions.

An Environmental Health officer first spotted cigarettes in non standard packaging while on a routine food inspection of the premises in November 2021.

A test purchase was conducted in February 2022 where counterfeit Marlboro Red cigarettes and oversized vapes were sold. The raid was then arranged by Trading Standards Officers later that year.

Councillor Bhupinder Gakhal, cabinet member for resident services at City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “We will continue to carry out these seizures along with the police to improve the quality of life and health of our residents and to ensure everyone in the city is safer. 

“Illicit tobacco and cigarettes hold even greater risks than legitimate ones as they often contain far more nicotine. Some fake products can even contain high levels of lead and arsenic.

“I would like to thank the council’s Trading Standards and legal teams, along with West Midlands Police, who consistently monitor the practices of businesses in the region to ensure that the public are protected from fraudsters and dangerous products.”

Officers estimate that unpaid duty on the total seizure was £15,686.40 and the total lost to the industry was £19,407. 

Dudley Magistrates Court made a forfeiture and destruction order against the items seized. The cigarettes and tobacco will now be handed over to a recycling scheme by Trading Standards officers to be dealt with in an environmentally friendly way.

Any residents concerned about vapes or other tobacco products they have seen on sale in the city can email trading.standards@wolverhampton.gov.uk.