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.”