A SHOP owner was discovered to be hiding illegal tobacco in empty juice cartons and has been fined thousands of pounds.

Illegal tobacco was uncovered in empty juice cartons at a high street shop in Great Lever, but when questioned the owner denied he was involved in the products, despite them being manufactured just weeks before the search.

A&H Global Market was searched by trading standards officers who made a shocking find. The officers and search dog uncovered 15 packets of rolling tobacco and 43 packs of cigarettes were revealed within several two-litre juice cartons in the shop’s kitchen and storeroom.

All items were illegal for sale as they were not in plain packaging and did not display the required health warnings. Some of the tobacco was also found to be counterfeit.

When challenged, owner Baker Mahmood claimed he had never touched the tobacco and that had it been in the shop when he first moved in a year before.

But trading standards officers found out that the tobacco was manufactured just a few weeks before.

Attending Bolton Magistrates’ Court, Mahmood was ordered to pay a total of £1,350 in fines together with £541 in court costs and a £30 victim surcharge.

Mahmood’s company, Global Market England Ltd, was handed £1,800 in fines as well as a further £541 of costs and a £30 surcharge. HMRC will also be issuing a fine for unpaid tobacco duty.

Bolton Council’s Executive Cabinet Member for Environmental Regulatory Services, Cllr Anne Galloway, said:

“This council has a zero-tolerance policy on illegal tobacco products.

“Buying or selling illegal cigarettes is not a victimless crime. As well as damaging public health it also deprives public services of a valuable source of income.

“The public can play a crucial role in the fight against illicit tobacco, and I urge anyone concerned that a shop may be profiting from criminal activity to report it immediately.”

Illegal tobacco sales can be reported anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.