Crackdown on illegal tobacco trade online
JTI supports successful prosecution of two illegal tobacco sellers
As part of its continued commitment to tackling the illicit tobacco trade, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has announced the successful prosecution of two individuals who sold counterfeit tobacco through Facebook.
At Southend Magistrates’ Court on 7th September, Michael Light pleaded guilty to four counts of selling and possessing counterfeit tobacco. Mr Light was sentenced to a fine of £800 and required to pay a £34 victim surcharge. The court also imposed a requirement for Light to pay £500 towards the investigation costs and an order was made for forfeiture and destruction of all the fake tobacco.
Similarly, Lauren Marie Squelch pleaded guilty to selling counterfeit tobacco products that broke The Trademarks Act 1994 at Southend Magistrates’ Court on 13th September. Squelch was sentenced to a fine of £120 and ordered to pay costs of £200 and a £34 victim surcharge.
Following online contact, evidence of the offences for both cases was obtained as a result of face‑to-face test purchases, conducted in June and July 2020. In both instances, five illegal products (50g packs of roll your own tobacco) were purchased. Both cases were brought by TM Eye as a private criminal prosecution on behalf of JTI.
JTI Tackling the Problem
Charlie Cunningham-Reid, UK Head of Corporate Affairs, JTI, commented: “We welcome the decision made by the Court for both offences. JTI is committed to helping tackle the problem of illegal tobacco and we will not hesitate to take similar action in future. Selling illegal tobacco damages legitimate business and makes it easier for young people to get hold of tobacco products.”
The illicit tobacco trade remains a serious problem in the UK and JTI is committed to supporting retailers and defending its own brands by supporting a range of measures including private prosecutions and gantry removals. This has seen JTI successfully support 13 prosecution cases for infringements on one or more of its brands since the start of 2018, demonstrating the manufacturer’s no-nonsense stance towards the illicit trade and protecting law-abiding retailers.
For further information about JTI’s work, retailers can visit the Don’t Be Complicit in Illicit microsite which provides information on the scale of the illegal tobacco market across the UK and allows them to use the recently launched Postcode Calculator to see how the issue is impacting their local area.
If retailers know, or suspect, illegal tobacco is being sold in their area, they should call HMRC’s Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887, Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.