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Jail for peddler of drugs and counterfeit cigarettes

A peddler of drugs and illicit and counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Albert Dawid Nowak was found guilty of the offences following a trial at Teesside Crown Court.

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston today welcomed the sentencing saying "despite their best efforts the criminals will not win".

The court heard that the tobacco case related to 5,880 cigarettes and 2,300g worth of hand rolling tobacco, with a retail value of nearly £5,400, which was found during a multi-agency operation involving Middlesbrough Council's Trading Standards team and Cleveland Police, in a vehicle parked near to Parli Butchers on Parliament Road, Middlesbrough on March 29, 2018.

The tobacco was found hidden inside boxes of a paddling pool and other inflatables stored in the rear of the vehicle, a Vauxhall Combi Van.

Surveillance had shown 33-year-old Nowak regularly transporting cigarettes from the vehicle to the shop premises. Storing illicit tobacco in cars and inside other items is an increasingly common ploy of illicit tobacco sellers to try and evade detection, the court was told.

The tobacco products did not display the correct labelling including health warnings and many of them were counterfeit. In addition some were unsafe in that they did not contain the reduced propensity ignition strips which causes them to extinguish safely, presenting more of a fire risk.

In court Nowak, of Crescent Road, Middlesbrough, tried to claim that the person in the footage wasn't him. However, Trading Standards Officers explained to the jury that Mr Nowak was well known to them and therefore easily identified. The jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict.

Nowak was subsequently found to have committed drug trafficking offences, after being found with 26 wraps of cocaine worth £520.

He was sentenced to six months imprisonment for the three illicit tobacco offences and three years consecutively for the drug offences.

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "This sentence shows that despite their best efforts the criminals will not win. It sends out a message that Middlesbrough Council will not tolerate organised crime, which is behind illicit tobacco supply lines, in this town.

"We will find you, take your illicit goods and bring you to justice. Illicit tobacco undermines all the UK tobacco control measures to reduce smoking, increases health inequalities in the town, brings crime into our communities and is the main source of tobacco to children under 18 years old. This case shows the clear links between tobacco and drug supply lines."

Judith Hedgley, Head of Middlesbrough Council's Public Protection Service, said: "This case demonstrates how the hard work of the Trading Standards Team to bring criminals to justice who are increasingly using more sophisticated tactics in the illicit tobacco trade to evade detection.

"The illicit tobacco trade not only brings crime into our community, smoking impacts on the health of our communities and Officers will continue to use all the powers at their disposal to protect our residents."

Anyone with information on illicit cigarette sales can contact the reporting hotline on 01642 728223 or message via the Middlesbrough Trading Standards Facebook Page or email EHTS@middlesbrough.gov.uk