An Iranian asylum seeker Darbaz Hama RASUEEL, born 24 03 1984, known as ‘KA KA’ of Park Hall, 18 Thurloe Street, Manchester, M14 5SG, appeared at Manchester Magistrates Court on the 21st December 2018, charged with six (6) offences of selling counterfeit tobacco and cigarettes contrary to Section 92 of The Trademarks Act 1994 and The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015 and Tobacco and Regulated products Regulations 2016. Rasueel had previously pleaded guilty to all matters on 29th November 2018, and been bailed to attend for sentence on 13th December 2018. He failed to appear and a no bail warrant was issued for his arrest. He was arrested and taken to the court for sentence. He was sentenced to a 12-Month Community Order with a requirement to undertake 200 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay an £80 Victims Surcharge. A forfeiture and destruction order was granted by the court for all goods seized by TM Eye.
The case was brought by TM Eye as a private criminal prosecution on behalf of Japanese Tobacco International (JTI), in relation to the brands Amber Leaf (tobacco) and Mayfair (cigarettes). Counterfeit tobacco and cigarettes of other brands were recovered but were not the subject of any prosecution. A quantity of controlled drugs were also seized and are the subject of an ongoing investigation by TM Eye.
Rasueel operated his criminal trade on the streets of Strangeways in Manchester known as ‘Counterfeit Street’. He kept hidden stashes of large amounts of fake tobacco, cigarettes and controlled drugs in the boots of ‘stash’ cars parked in local car parks. On Wednesday 11th April 2018, TM EYE undercover Investigator, ‘Sam,’ posing as a customer attended Bury New Road at the junction with Harris Street, Manchester, M8 8EG. A test purchase was conducted from Rasueel and another gang member of a packet containing 10 X 50g pouches of Amber Leaf tobacco for £30.00. Rasueel intoduced himself as ‘Ka Ka’ and offered to sell the Undercover operative numerous brands of illicit tobacco. He also provided her with his mobile number.
Further test purchases of counterfeit Amber Leaf tobacco and Mayfair cigarettes were made from Rasueel on 29th and 30th May 2018, the 9th July 2018 and finally on 10th July 2018. During the course of the final test purchase, officers from Greater Manchester Police supported by TM Eye’s surveillance team arrested Rasueel, as he sold the tobacco to the undercover operative. He had been kept under surveillance that morning by TM Eye’ surveillance team and as a result two cars were identified as ‘stash’ vehicles. Rasueel was detained and taken to the cars which were then searched. A red Lexus FP 06 GXU was found to contain eight (8) cartons each with 200 Mayfair cigarettes, twenty three (23) cartons each with 200 Richmond cigarettes and a number of Gold Classic cigarettes. A large amount of fake Golden Virginia tobacco pouches were also recovered. A quantity of boxes of controlled drugs were also recovered and are subject to ongoing investigation with a number of pharmaceutical companies.
A second car car was searched having also been identified by the TM Eye surveillance team as a ‘stash’ vehicle. From the boot of the Vauxhall Signum index SP05 CNY, police recovered sixteen (16) cartons each contaning 200 Richmond cigarettes.
Rasueel admitted at the scene that all the goods were his and that he daily sold the illicit goods on the streets of Strangeways to the public. He admitted working as the frontman for an organised criminal gang claiming he did so to make money as he was an asylum seeker and did not have authority to work in the United Kingdom. Rasueel sold ten (10) Amber Leaf tobacco pouches for £30 and a carton of Mayfair cigarettes for £30. This equates to approximately £3 per pouch or per packet of cigarettes. The actual cost would have been £21.60 per pouch, £9.65 per packet. The total value of goods seized from Rasueel at the time of his arrest was over £2,000.
TM Eye Director David McKelvey said,”Rasueel was a prolific criminal salesman selling vast amounts of fake tobacco and cigarettes on the streets of Strangeways in Manchester on a daily basis. He admitted that he was the front man for a criminal gang. He ran a sophisticated criminal operation secreting the illicit goods in the boots of cars nearby so that if stopped by police he would only ever have small amounts on him. Undercover operatives from TM Eye’s Dedicated Undercover Unit carried out a series of covertly recorded test purchases from him which formed the basis of the prosecution and conviction. He was kept under surveillance on the morning of 10th July 2018 by our surveillance team and was seen taking goods from the two ‘stash’ cars. During the course of the last test purchase, officers from Greater Manchester Police were driven onto the scene in a covert unmarked TM Eye van and were able to get next to Rasueel as he sold the fake tobacco. At this point they disembarked and caught Rasueel ‘in the act’. He was detained and taken back to the cars which were then searched. He was interviewed at the scene by TM Eye detectives and fully admitted the offences. He was then de arrested. A criminal summons was applied for by TM Eye and the private prosecution commenced. both the Lexus and Vauxhall were uninsured. They were seized by police and crushed.
TM Eye will target those criminal gangs and persons who sell illicit tobacco that impacts our client Japanese Tobacco International’s (JTI) brands and bring them to justice in the criminal courts. The sale of counterfeit tobacco and cigarettes has serious health issues and the loss of revenue to the Treasury is significant.”
TM Eye’ Illicit Tobacco Team, on behalf of JTI, brought eight (8) private criminal prosecutions in the last three months of 2018 and convicted all eight persons. Two received custodial sentences. All those convicted have their convictions recorded on the police national computer and have their fingerprints, photographs and DNA taken. TM Eye gave carried out operational activity in 2018 leading to the recovery of over £10 million worth of fake tobacco goods. The loss to the Revenue is significant.