A city shop owner and employee who persistently sold and distributed illicit tobacco have been given suspended prison sentences.
Karanveer Singh Dhaliwal, the shop owner and former premises license holder of KS News, in Oxford Street, Bilston, and shop manager at the time Ashok Singh Kumar, appeared before a judge at Wolverhampton Crown Court. The two men were both sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for two years.
A timetable was also set for a further hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act to consider confiscation proceedings. Following a trial, Dhaliwal was found guilty of four offences under the Trade Marks Act and six offences relating to UK health warnings for tobacco, cigarette packaging, unpaid duty and possession of criminal property.
He was also found guilty of possession with intent to supply a pharmacy-controlled drug, contrary to The General Product Safety Regulations 2005, and two offences contrary to The Licensing Act. At a separate hearing, Kumar had pleaded guilty to four offences under the Trade Marks Act and six further offences relating to UK health warnings for tobacco, cigarette packaging, unpaid duty and possession of criminal property.
KS News had a history of continuous complaints relating to the sale of illicit tobacco and unlicensed alcohol. Between 15 February 2019 and 24 September 2021, Trading Standards officers from City of Wolverhampton Council seized more than 10,000 counterfeit, non-duty paid and foreign cigarettes from the store. In addition, 11 bottles of whisky were found for which duty had not been paid.
A seizure during this time period also included 969 tablets of Sildenafil Citrate tablets, a pharmacy-controlled drug used to treat erectile disfunction, in breach of The General Safety Regulations. On 24 September 2021, officers visited the store to investigate a complaint of underage alcohol sales from the premises which left a child requiring hospitalisation.
During that visit, officers discovered 97 bottles of wine, 225 litres of spirits, 570 litres of beers and lager and more than 200 litres of cider in the back of the shop, despite the premises not having a licence to sell alcohol.
In November last year, a closure order was granted by the courts, following an application by the council under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. The order was the maximum permitted by law and meant that nobody has been allowed to enter the premises during that time.
John Roseblade, director for housing and city environment at City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “I would like to recognise the hard work of our Trading Standards officers in achieving a successful outcome in this case.
“Sale of items such as those found in KS News is a serious crime that not only has significant financial implications, but also poses a real threat to public health. Offenders need to know that the council will not hesitate to take swift and immediate action to seize illicit goods and protect the public from dangerous products.”