Two stores selling thousands of pounds worth of illegal tobacco have been closed following a lengthy investigation by trading standards officers at Newport City Council.
Evidence the Zam Zam Shop at 58 Commercial Street, Newport was selling illegal and counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco at vastly reduced prices, went before Newport Magistrate’s on 10 October.
As a result the council was successful in gaining a closure order for the premises. Early this year, on 26 July, a closure order was awarded against Azmar Mini Market of 92 Commercial Street, Newport for the same wrong doing.
The court heard that over a number of years both premises were prolific sellers of illegal tobacco and despite numerous visits from trading standards officers, raids, arrests and seizures, people at the shops continued to sell.
Often the ownership of the business changed soon after each enforcement action and there was a high turnover of staff frustrating officers when carrying out traditional enforcement methods of inspection and seizure.
There were concerns by the council and its partners that these shops were nothing more than a ‘front’ for selling illegal products by organised criminals.
Since February 2015 people from the Zam Zam shop repeatedly sold illegal tobacco to consumers and undercover operatives on 25 occasions.
There were four seizures accounting for 3,744 packets of cigarettes with a retail value of £37,000 and 303 pouches of tobacco with a retail value of £6,000.
Since March 2016 people from the Azmar Mini Market repeatedly sold illegal tobacco to consumers and undercover operatives on 14 occasions. Four seizures saw 1,584 packets of cigarettes with a retail value of £15,000 and 463 pouches of tobacco worth £8,000.
A proceeds of crime hearing saw a further £7,000 seized by the council’s financial investigators.
Both Zam Zam and Azmar were closed for three months.
The investigations involved Gwent Police, Aneurin Bevan Health Board, Ash Wales, South Wales Fire and Rescue, Newport NOW and HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs).
Councillor Ray Truman, cabinet member for licensing and regulation praised the teamwork involved in achieving the shop closures and halting the sale of illegal products; he stressed the importance of tackling such illegal behaviour and identified such action as a key tactic in the council’s efforts to improve the health of our citizens and drive out rogue traders.