Lancashire County Council’s Trading Standards team has been highlighted in a government report for their determination in bringing to justice a prolific seller of illegal tobacco in East Lancashire.
Salim Balesaria was jailed for 18 months in June 2017 for selling counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco, and cigarettes and tobacco without the required health warnings, through two shops in Nelson and one in Accrington.
The Intellectual Property Office Crime and Enforcement report released today reveals the lengths to which Balesaria worked with others to hide their illegal activities and throw investigators off the scent.
The report outlines how the investigation was a complex one since the shop assistants and the licensee gave false details as to the owner, false details were listed with non-domestic rates, phone calls from invented business owners inventing false trails were made to Trading Standards, and cash was paid for goods at the wholesalers, leaving very little evidence of who was behind the fraudulent businesses.
It details how eventually the owner was traced from vehicle details. A warrant at his home yielded lease agreements and stock invoices providing further proof as to his involvement in tobacco sales at the premises under investigation.
County Councillor Albert Atkinson, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council with responsibility for Trading Standards, said: “We have an excellent Trading Standards team, whose record speaks for itself in terms of the number of convictions secured over recent years of people involved in the supply of illegal tobacco.
“This report shows the lengths they will go to in bringing these people to justice, and just how determined they have to be to overcome often sophisticated attempts to cover up these activities, and the identities of those responsible.”