Merton Trading Standards officers have led the prosecution of a shopkeeper who was selling counterfeit tobacco from his premises in Mitcham, leading to the imposition of a community order and the settlement of the council’s legal costs in bringing the case to court.
Theivendram Sivendran, who previously owned the Church Mini Market, 172D Church Road, Mitcham CR4 3BN, pleaded guilty on December 2 at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court to possessing for sale pouches of counterfeit Amber Leaf rolling tobacco and hundreds of packets of Marlboro cigarettes intended for sale in Eastern Europe.
As they were manufactured for a foreign market, the cigarettes had no English-language health warning on them.
In 2017, Trading Standards officers searched the store supported by a sniffer dog and found the illegal cigarettes and rolling tobacco hidden within the ceiling void, behind secret paneling and near the serving counter.
Mr Sivendran was summoned to attend court to answer these serious allegations but initially failed to do so. Magistrates had no hesitation in issuing an arrest warrant to compel him to appear before them.
The operation against Mr Sivendran involving many local agencies, including Trading Standards officers, the expert evidence of trademark holders, and prosecution by the South London Legal Partnership, London’s first five borough shared legal service, which works on behalf of Merton Council.
Mr Sivendran was made subject of an 18-month community order which requires him to complete 140 hours’ unpaid work, attend a rehabilitation programme to address his offending, and, importantly, pay £3,850 of prosecution costs.
Councillor Brenda Fraser, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Skills, said: “This is a great result that demonstrates the tenacity of our Trading Standards Service and its staff.
“Counterfeit goods will not be tolerated in the borough: the gangs behind their production are often involved in serious crime such as drug dealing, human trafficking and prostitution.
“While all tobacco is harmful to health, fake cigarettes can contain higher levels of toxins than standard ones and may have been produced in unregulated factories with unsanitary conditions. Cheap cigarettes, sold at knock-down prices, also make it easier for young people to start smoking.”