Business busted over illegal cigarettes

Arnos Grove shop had been selling cigarettes without paying import taxes or the correct labelling

The illegal cigarettes discovered at Carpathina European Food in Arnos Grove (credit Enfield Council)
The illegal cigarettes discovered at Carpathina European Food in Arnos Grove (credit Enfield Council)

Magistrates have ordered a business and its director to pay more than £14,000 in fines and costs after Enfield Council officers seized thousands of illicit cigarettes.

The trading standards team visited Carpathina European Food in Bowes Road, Arnos Grove, as part of a crackdown on illegal tobacco sales, and were joined by sniffer dogs and licensing enforcement officials.

The team had received tip-offs and conducted test purchases which indicated that the grocer and off-licence was selling unlawfully imported cigarettes, where no excise duties or VAT had been paid, in packaging that did not carry labelling in English or health warnings about tobacco products and smoking. In total, 6,480 illegal cigarettes were seized.

On 21st December 2021, Carpathina Ltd and director Iulian Frasinescu, aged 53, of Whitmore Close in New Southgate, were found guilty at Highbury Magistrates’ Court on nine counts, of breaching the Standardised Packaging Regulations 2015, Tobacco Related Products Regulations 2016 and sections 134 and 144 of the Licensing Act 2003. Frasinescu had pleaded not guilty.

On 2nd February 2022, Frasinescu was sentenced to pay a total of £7,390 and the company was ordered to pay a total of £6,750 in fines, costs and surcharges, totalling £14,140.

George Savva, the council’s cabinet member for regulatory services, said: “Trading standards officers have informed me that the 6,480 cigarette sticks accounted for an estimated £2,286 of unpaid excise duty and VAT.

“This illegal activity undermines valuable public services and fuels organised crime, while putting people’s health at risk. It is important that we continue to identify these activities and illegal products are removed from our high streets, leaving only safe, honest, hard-working businesses to operate.”

The action by the council against Carpathina was taken as part of ‘Operation CeCe’, a joint initiative between National Trading Standards and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to crack down on the sale or possession of illegal tobacco.

Wendy Martin, director of National Trading Standards, said: “The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law. Operation CeCe is a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HRMC and is playing a significant role in disrupting this illicit trade and is helping to take illegal tobacco products off the streets.”

HMRC encourages anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to report it online or call the fraud hotline on 0800 788 887.