Swindon Polish shop owner sold illegal tobacco
ARAN Baker, owner of the Zabka Polski Sklep on Manchester Road, has pleaded guilty to selling more than 56kg of illegal tobacco from his shop last year.
From March to December, Baker, 37, of Manchester Road, used the shop to store imported counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco, some of which carried no health warning or duty label.
Yesterday, at Swindon Magistrates Court, Baker pleaded guilty to six counts of possessing goods with a false trademark for sale, one of failing to prescribe health warnings, and one of failure to carry a duty mark.
Baker was caught in a series of sting operations after a search warrant was executed at his shop.
Rosie Heath, prosecuting, said: “At about 4.15pm on March 20, police officers executed a warrant on the Zabka Polski Sklep on Manchester Road and gained access to the property.
“Behind a locked brown wooden door at the rear of the shop they found a large quantity of cigarettes and tobacco.
“On April 9, Swindon Borough Council seized the assets, which comprised 112 packets of 50g rolling tobacco and four cartons of 200 cigarettes.
“In April the packets of the Golden Virginia and Amber Leaf tobacco were examined and found to be counterfeit.”
Baker has owned the store since October 2012, and has had experience with Trading Standards in the past, the court heard.
“Baker said he bought the cigarettes from somebody, who were foreigners bringing tobacco in to him to sell,” said Mrs Heath.
“He said it was the first time he had done anything like this and he had not sold anything through the shop.
“Cigarette papers were seen in the front of the shop and had been there for four to five months.
“Baker said he had had the tobacco for about 10 weeks and had not yet sold any.
“Friends would ask for it by word of mouth.
“He bought it from three different families,” he said. “He paid £1.50 per pack of cigarettes, and only his friends knew he had it in stock. His staff knew nothing about it, he said.
“He knew this was wrong because of his experience with Trading Standards in the past.
“On July 4, Swindon Borough Council carried out an inspection of the premises and found cartons of 200 cigarettes open behind the counter.
“Two of the packets were missing. Baker said they were for his personal use, and examniations showed them to be counterfeit.”
Later that month Swindon Council stung the premises with a secret shopper.
“The man asked for a packet of cigarettes, and the salesman at the shop asked him for £5,” said Mrs Heath.
“He paid £3.20 for a packet. The cigarettes did not have health warnings or duty paid indications on them.”
Sam Arif, defending, said: “Mr Baker is living in shared accommodation at present, and most of his family are living in Kurdistan.
“He has been self employed in the past.
“It seems that this has been opportunistic. He has had an offer of these cigarettes and he has thought he could make some money from it.
“He sold the tobacco for a short period of time. He is a man of previous good character and has entered an early guilty plea.”
The case was adjourned until June 9 for a pre-sentence report to be prepared.