A TAX-dodging shopkeeper who sold illegal tobacco has been spared jail.
Omaid Rahman was caught with tens of thousands of illegal cigarettes at Fratton Food Store in Fratton Road, Fratton.
Acting on a police tip-off, Portsmouth City Council trading standards officials first inspected the shop on October 21.
They seized 22,240 cigarettes that were not properly labelled and found hidden in food boxes and a rucksack in the shop.
Of particular concern to officers were 6,000 Jin Ling cigarettes which are manufactured abroad.
When interviewed, Mr Rahman claimed he did not know it was illegal to sell the cigarettes – or that duty had to be paid.
Officers returned to the store in a separate sting and asked for ‘cheap cigarettes’.
Mr Rahman sold an incorrectly-labelled packet for £3.80 which he took from a storage box.
Officers then seized a further 1,460 cigarettes from the store.
Rahman pleaded guilty to six offences related to the possession of different types of tobacco.
He also admitted one charge relating to selling cigarettes to trading standards officers during the test purchase sting in March.
Rahman was sentenced to two months in jail, suspended for a year at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court.
He was also ordered to do 180 hours of unpaid work.
An order was made for the tobacco to be forfeited and destroyed.
Peter Emmett, Portsmouth City Council trading standards intervention manager, said: ‘Supplying concealed, illicit tobacco is a very serious matter and the sentence imposed by the courts clearly reflects this.
‘Tobacco labelling gives consumers an informed choice, but most importantly means that the manufacture and production is strictly regulated.’
Rahman could also be ordered to pay back some the cash he made through crime under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
An investigation is ongoing.