A FORMER town centre shopkeeper has been jailed for 18 months for selling illegal tobacco products over a sustained period of time - the first conviction in Barnsley of its kind.

Mohammed Ali Mustapha, 46, of Greenwood Road in Wakefield, was originally convicted of tobacco offences at Barnsley Magistrates’ Court earlier this year after selling illegal products from his shop.

He was the trader at Ara, based on Eldon Street.

The trial had been adjourned on several occasions and was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The charges Mustapha pleaded guilty to relate to several incidents relating to fraud and breaching packaging regulations which took place between January 2020 and August 2021.

Mustapha sold packets of cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco in packets which did not comply with Regulation 3(3) of the standardised packaging of tobacco products regulations 2015,/ and without the necessary combined health warnings,/ contrary to Regulation 5(2) of the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016./

He was also found responsible for the commissioning and installation of a concealment device at Ara in the roof and an area at the rear of the counter, with the specific intention of hiding illicit tobacco products.

These were then sold from the premises, for use during or in connection with a fraud, contrary to section 6 of the Fraud Act 2006.

He appeared at Sheffield Crown Court on Friday and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

It comes after stronger powers to combat rocketing cases of illicit tobacco sales came into force in Barnsley.

Trading Standards officers - who work alongside Barnsley Council and South Yorkshire Police - now have the power to refer cases to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for further investigation where businesses or individuals have been found to sell illicit tobacco.

New legislation came into force yesterday, paving the way for anyone responsible to be fined up to £10,000.

HMRC, where appropriate, will administer the penalties and ensure the appropriate sanction is applied and enforced.

Depending on the severity of the breach, rule-breaking businesses could receive a penalty of between £2,500 and £10,000, have their tobacco products seized or lose their licence to buy tobacco for resale in the UK.

Coun Wendy Cain, cabinet spokesperson for public health and communities, said: “This is the first custodial sentence on a tobacco case at Barnsley and I hope it highlights the seriousness of this type of offending and the potential consequences./

“Although it has taken a while to get through the judicial system, I am pleased to see that justice has finally been served in this matter./

“Trade in illicit tobacco damages legitimate businesses, undermines public health and facilitates the supply of tobacco to young people.

“We will keep the pressure up on those who continue to sell it.”