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Safin Rafiq of The Leverets, Birmingham, appeared at Birmingham Magistrates Court on 26th October 2018, charged with six (6) offences of selling counterfeit tobacco contrary to Section 92 of The Trademarks Act 1994 and associated labeling offences in breach of The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015 and Tobacco and Regulated products Regulations 2016. He pleaded guilty to all offences. He was sentenced to a fine of £120 for each trademark offence totalling £360. He was also ordered to pay £750 costs and a £30 victims surcharge. There was no separate penalty for the Regulation 3 offences.

 

The case was brought by TM Eye as a private criminal prosecution on behalf of its client Japanese Tobacco International (JTI).

 

The prosecution and conviction follows a one month covert operation by TM Eye’s Online Investigations Team working with its Illicit Tobacco Team. On 1st June 2018, TM Eye online investigators identified a Facebook selling page in the name ‘Bzana Lezan’ that offered Amber Leaf tobacco for sale. The advertisement had originally been posted on 13th April 2018. The advert read “try before you buy minimum £40 to order free delivery any, 200 fags £45 any 10 packs baccy £40”. 

 

As as a result undercover operatives from TM Eye’s Dedicated Undercover Unit deployed on 13th June 2018, 22nd June 2018 and 1st July 2018, and on each occasion purchased ten (10) 50g Amber Leaf tobacco pouches for £40.00. Safin Rafiq was seen by TM Eye surveillance officers to come from his ground floor premises with the fake tobacco pouches and sell them to the undercover operatives. Every purchase was covertly recorded on film and formed the evidence leading to his conviction.

 

 

Rafiq now has a criminal conviction and he will have his fingerprints, photograph and DNA taken by police and recorded on the Police National Computer alongside his conviction and on police intelligence databases.

 

TM Eye Director David McKelvey said,”TM Eye’s Online Investigations team search the web and social media daily for those criminals selling fake or illicit goods. Once identified they pass the intelligence to one of the illicit crime teams; Luxury Goods, Tobacco, Pharmaceuticals or Design Rights who then carry out a pro active investigation. Evidence is gathered by highly trained undercover operatives from our Dedicated Undercover Unit supported by TM Eye’s conventional surveillance team. Covertly recorded film is used to provide evidence ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ and usually leads to an early plea of guilty as it did in this case.

 

Rafiq clearly ran a very profitable criminal enterprise selling fake Amber Leaf tobacco. This damages the brand JTI and puts the purchaser at real risk. The loss to the Treasury is substantial and this loss of tax revenue costs real UK jobs and damage.

 

TM Eye will continue to identify criminals engaged in the sale of JTI products such as Amber Leaf and will always prosecute.”

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Jagit Singh Taneja of ‘Johnston’, Rochdale, OL12 6RW, appeared at Manchester Magistrates Court on 21st October 2018, charged with three offences of selling counterfeit goods contrary to Section 92 of The Trademarks Act 1994. He pleaded guilty to all matters and was sentenced to a 12-month community order to include 200 hours unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £85 victims surcharge.

 

The case was brought by TM Eye as a private criminal prosecution on behalf of HUGO BOSS and another well known luxury goods brand..

 

The conviction is the latest in a series of convictions by TM Eye as part of Operation Mordor tackling the organised criminal gangs that operate in and around the area of Manchester known as ‘Counterfeit Street’. To date over eighty (80) criminals have been convicted for over three hundred (300) criminal offences by TM Eye by way of private criminal prosecutions for the wholesale supply and sale of fake goods as part of Operation Mordor. Thirteen (13) have received custodial sentences. 

 

TM Eye undercover detectives supported by their surveillance team undertook covertly filmed test purchases from Taneja on 27th March 2018, 10th May 2018 and 29th May 2018. Having gathered sufficient evidence, a criminal summons was then applied for, issued and served leading to the prosecution and conviction. Taneja now has a criminal conviction recorded on the Police National Computer.

 

TM Eye has prosecuted over 400 criminal cases as a private prosecutor and has a 100% conviction rate. Over 13% of those convicted have received prison sentences.

 

TM Eye Director David McKelvey said, “Taneja was the latest criminal to be convicted by TM Eye as part of its Operation Mordor, tackling organised crime in and around the area of Manchester known as ‘Counterfeit Street’. Taneja ran a shop in an alley off Great Ducie Street in Strangeways. He sold a wide variety of counterfeit goods from numerous brands including; Michael Kors, Chanel, D&G, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, Superdry, Ted Baker, Nike and many others. No enforcement action was taken in relation to these brands at the request of the companies representatives.

 

Hundreds of criminals operate in this area of Strangeways and they are becoming more sophisticated and cautious to prevent evidence being gathered against them. They operate with ‘spotters’ looking out for TM Eye or law enforcement and close down the entire area at the slightest suspicion of activity. Guards control the entrances to each criminal shop or warehouse and have steel shutters that close within seconds by remote key fobs. Once activated the ‘guards’ immediately walk away to avoid detection. A series of unlawfully built ‘rabbit warren’ escape routes exist to allow those in the premises to escape, none of which have building or planning consent and are often dangerous. There is also a serious fire risk as the criminals bypass the electricity meters.members of the public are often trapped inside premises for hours during these ‘lock downs’.

 

Manchester City Council have recently imposed closure orders on local premises based upon the evidence of crime gathered. These criminals now risk having their properties seized and closed as well as being convicted.

 

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have been instrumental in securing the identities of suspects allowing them to brought to justice.

 

Taneja will now have his fingerprints, DNA and photograph taken and recorded on the Police National Computer and police indices.”