High Wycombe shop owner prosecuted for sale of illegal cigarettes

The owner of an independent supermarket in High Wycombe has been prosecuted for the sale of illegal cigarettes following an investigation by Buckinghamshire & Surrey Trading Standards.

Appearing at High Wycombe Magistrates Court on Friday 24 May, due to stand trial, Diako Salam, owner of Grosik Supermarket in Castle Street, High Wycombe and Director of High Wycombe Grosik Limited, changed his plea to guilty of all charges, meaning the planned trial was abandoned and Salam was instead sentenced by the sitting District Judge.

The court heard that on 9 June 2022, a test purchaser bought ten packets of 20 Compliment cigarettes which were not packaged correctly and did not bear the statutory health warnings that all cigarette packaging is legally required to display.

Following the test purchase, an announced visit was made to the shop on 10 August 2022. A search of the premises took place with the assistance of a tobacco detection dog. A stash of illegal cigarettes was found hidden in a void in a walk-in fridge at the rear of the shop. In total 513 packets of cigarettes were discovered, concealed in a false roof in the fridge. None of the cigarette packets were correctly labelled nor did they comply with legal packaging requirements. In addition, more than a fifth of the cigarettes were counterfeit.

During interview, Salam denied any knowledge of the cigarettes and sought to blame his staff. However, the court was told that the sales of the cigarettes were being put through the cash register in the shop and the materials used to fabricate the false roof in the fridge were paid for from shop funds, with the invoices being retained for tax purposes. Salam was charged with causing the offences to be committed due to his neglect. Mr Salam entered guilty pleas on the basis that the offences were committed due to his neglect, and the court accepted his assertion that he had no knowledge of the cigarettes.

The judge imposed a fine of £1,000 on the company but reduced it by 10% for the late guilty plea. No separate penalty was imposed on Salam as he was the sole director of the company. Prosecution costs of £3,850 were also ordered by the judge, making the total to pay in costs and fines, £4,750. The judge also made two forfeiture orders, one for the cigarettes seized on 10 August 2022 and one for a larger haul seized on 21 September 2021 from a flat that was being used at that time to hide the illegal cigarettes. The number of items seized in the flat in September 2021 was 2,748 packets of 20 cigarettes and 16 pouches containing 50g of hand rolling tobacco.

Mr Salam informed the court that he has since sold the business.

The goods seized will be destroyed.