AN OXFORDSHIRE shop owner has been ordered to pay back £75,000 following a raid where counterfeit cigarettes were seized.

Oxfordshire County Council’s trading standards team brought a prosecution of Narinder Singh Malhotra, the director of Banbury Express Food and Wine Limited, which trades from 179 Warwick Road, Banbury.

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The case was heard at Oxford Crown Court on Thursday after trading standards swooped on the shop in June 2019, seizing nearly 3,000 illegal cigarettes following two earlier test purchases when Ukrainian Marlboro Gold cigarettes were sold for £6.50 a packet to undercover officers.

The cigarettes seized were found behind the counter hidden in an empty box of Snickers chocolate bars and in the storeroom at the back of the shop.

Appearing before Judge Maria Lamb; Malhotra and the company pleaded guilty to 13 offences each.

These included supplying cigarettes that were not labelled with the required picture or text warnings and possessing counterfeit Marlboro Red cigarettes with a view to selling them.

It was the possession of the fake cigarettes that triggered crime proceedings.

Malhotra and the company were both sentenced to fines of £2,450 each and ordered to pay £75,000 within three months or face a custodial sentence of 12 months in default.

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He must also pay £6,220.70 in prosecution costs. All the seized cigarettes were ordered to be forfeited and destroyed.

Councillor Judith Heathcoat, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “Our trading standards team, working in partnership with Thames Valley Police and other agencies will continue to crack down on the sale of these illegal products."