A grocery shop in a Herefordshire town has lost its licence to sell alcohol after trading in bootleg cigarettes.

Trading standards officers made three separate test purchases of Benson and Hedges cigarettes from Ledbury Mini Market in the town’s New Street in August and September last year, finding them to be counterfeit in each case.

In October, they then seized a further 8,560 illegal cigarettes were from a car used by the shop owner, Dler Mohammed Amin Aziz.

Principal trading standards officer Paul Di Lucia said his department investigates three kinds of illegal tobacco sales: ‘smuggled’ goods manufactured legitimately abroad but on which no UK duty has been paid; ‘illegal whites’ which do not resemble UK brands; and ‘counterfeit’ goods illegally manufactured in imitation of genuine brands.

All three bought from the shop were found to be in the latter category, Mr Di Lucia said. “These pose the biggest danger to consumers, because they could be smoking anything.”

The butts of such cigarettes can also continue burning when no longer smoked, making them also a greater fire hazard, he added.

“By selling these products, Mr Aziz has shown complete disregard for consumers’ health, and only cares about making money.”

Though the sale price of such illegal products can be much lower, they can yield profits 10 times greater than those manufactured and sold legitimately, Mr Di Lucia added.


The cigarettes were sold at £5.50, compared with up to £14 in a supermarket, he pointed out.

He told councillors: “Allowing Mr Aziz to continue to sell alcohol would send out completely the wrong message, and would be a kick in the teeth for legal businesses.”

A criminal investigation into the trade at the shop “is nearing conclusion”, he noted, adding that Mr Aziz “has consciously broken the law on many occasions, and is incapable of being trusted to trade legitimately”.

Mr Aziz told the meeting: “I didn’t know until trading standards came that they were fake.

“I bought them from a guy who used to bring vegetables and watermelons. He said he would bring me the VAT receipts. It was all legal, he was closing his business.

"I just put them in my girlfriend’s car. I bought them cheap and sold them cheap. I didn’t know they were fake.”

After deliberating, the committee agreed with Mr Di Lucia’s recommendation to revoke the shop’s licence.

West Mercia Police had backed the move, saying: “The sale of counterfeit tobacco, whilst being illegal, brings into question how legitimate this business is.

“When a licence to sell alcohol is granted, it is expected that the premises will promote all the licensing objectives, which includes the prevention of crime and disorder. This premises has clearly failed to do this this.

“The selling of counterfeit tobacco has clear links to organised crime and also fails legitimate businesses that pay full duty on the products they sell.”

Shops in England do not need a licence to sell tobacco products.