Sniffer dogs find tobacco hidden in secret overhead compartment and fridge in 140,000 illegal cigarette scam


Investigators have uncovered a large-scale illegal tobacco operation run from a grocery store, a court has heard.

Specialized sniffer dogs helped locate secret storage compartments in the store and in total some 140,000 illegal and counterfeit cigarettes were recovered along with 20 kg of hand-rolled tobacco. The couple who ran the shop continued the scam even after a series of raids by trade standards and revenue officers.

The man behind the operation, Jamal Karimi, has been jailed for 38 months – but her partner Simona Adamova is currently abroad and living in the Czech Republic and it is not known when she will return.

Swansea Crown Court, the Polish Stokrotka grocery store in Swansea town center was at the center of a “significant illegal tobacco trade”.

Lee Reynolds, prosecuting, said that in a series of raids by Swansea Council Trade Standards officers and HM Revenue and Customs officers carried out for nearly 12 months, large amounts of illegal cigarettes and tobacco had been seized both from the store on rue Mansel and from vehicles parked outside. he. The cigarettes were either “illicit white” – unbranded cigarettes – or counterfeit versions of well-known brands.

He said that on several occasions specialized sniffer dogs had been used in the searches and helped uncover a number of concealed storage areas in the store, including one in a refrigerated cabinet and one in the vacuum. from the toilet ceiling – the latter its own electric elevator to access illegal goods.

The court heard that Karimi, 44, was present during a number of searches, but gave investigators false names during her questioning and denied any knowledge of the hidden compartments. On one occasion, officers found a large amount of tobacco in a Range Rover parked near the store. The accused denied that the vehicle was his even though CCTV footage from this morning showed him driving.

A sniffer dog led trade standards officers to an overhead storage compartment accessed by a mini-elevator.

Cigarettes were also hidden in a compartment of the store's refrigerator.
Cigarettes were also hidden in a compartment of the store’s refrigerator.

Officers also raided his house in the Townhill area of ​​Swansea and recovered more illegal tobacco products – 27,000 cigarettes and 5kg of tobacco stored in suitcases – as well as £ 2,755 in cash. The defendant denied that the items were his and said he was only storing them for a Polish friend in exchange for £ 40. He also denied that he had ever given false names.

Mr Reynolds said a total of 140,000 illegal cigarettes and 20kg of hand-rolled tobacco were seized and it was clear that the illegal tobacco business continued even while the store and its owners were operating. ‘under investigation. The lawyer assessed the value of the seized goods at 176,000 pounds sterling, but there was no way of quantifying the amount of money that had been made over the months from similar goods that had actually been sold. He said: “It was a very profitable long and clear trade.”

Karimi, of Powys Avenue, Townhill, Swansea, admitted only one count of fraud. He has already been convicted several times, including for violent offenses, but none of a similar nature.

Jon Tarrant, for Karimi, said it had to be accepted that the accused’s background was “checked” and said he had spent the past four years wearing an electronic tag because of his status as an immigration. He said Karimi had a stable relationship with her co-defendant who had just given birth to their baby in the Czech Republic and that the intention was for her to return to the UK when she could and they would resume their life together.

Jamal Karimi
Jamal Karimi

Recorder Gregory Bull QC told the defendant that, while his immigration status was under review, he “embarked on significant dishonesty” while running the Swansea store. He said Karimi appeared to have no respect for the law and continued to operate the illegal business even while under investigation and said “lie after lie after lie” to cover up what was going on.

The recorder said he was convinced Karimi and Adamova were both involved, but the defendant currently in court was the one who took the lead. He said, “It was a determined attempt by you and your partner to make money. You were motivated by greed.”

Granting the accused a 20% reduction on his guilty plea, which was entered shortly before his trial, the clerk sentenced him to 38 months in prison. Karimi will serve up to half of this detention period before being released on license under the UK government’s early release program to serve the rest of the community.

Adamova, 43, has already pleaded guilty to fraud and will be sentenced at a later date.

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