Hair-raising haul of counterfeit cigarettes up in smoke

Thu, 18/05/2017

The days of a Shaftsbury Avenue hairdresser selling under-the-counter fake cigarettes have been stubbed out thanks to a Westminster City Council crackdown.

A haul of 28,000 individual cigarettes worth £8,000 were stockpiled and carefully concealed across ‘Star’ hairdresser, 124 Shaftsbury Avenue, were unveiled by tobacco detection dogs during the seizure led by Westminster City Council’s Trading Standards Team.

Some of the suspect cigarettes bore the trademarks of Benson & Hedges and Marlboro whilst others were not intended for the British market and did not have the required UK health warning labelling. Sole Director of Star Wang Ltd trading as Star Hairdresser, Mr Cheng Cai Wang, 47, pleaded guilty to eight offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994 and Consumer Protection Act 1987 at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on May 9. In total both Star Wang Ltd and Wang were fined £42,544.

Westminster Council’s Trading Standards officers filmed the operation which was carried out on January 21, last year. The footage shows sniffer dogs hunting out boxes of cigarettes hidden in various areas including two suitcases in an enclosed yard at the rear of the premises. Packets of cigarettes were also disguised in a box designed for a laptop plus a dummy security camera, hairdryer, toy Lego car and fitness equipment.

The detection dog also found large bundles of £20 notes banded together in bundles of £1,000 hidden in wash bags. The dog also detected a large quantity of cash in a footstool within the premises.

The seizure was part of ‘Operation Henry 2’, a national operation developed and managed by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute on behalf of the Department of Health and carried out locally by the Council.

Cabinet Member for Public Protection and Licensing, Cllr Antonia Cox, said:

“Counterfeit cigarettes undercut legitimate businesses, can fund organised crime and endanger the health of those who buy them as they are smoking ‘tobacco’ often made of rat droppings, heavy metals and tea leaves.

“Protecting residents, visitors and local businesses from those who chose to sell counterfeit goods is of paramount importance to Westminster City Council. I hope this prosecution sends a clear message that we will clamp down hard on rogue businesses.”

Last updated: 18 May 2017
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