Two shopkeepers were caught with thousands of pounds worth of illegal cigarettes after raids by customs investigators.
HMRC investigators discovered more than 25,000 non-duty paid cigarettes during searches at European Supermarket in Central Drive, and Local Choice Mini Market in Lytham Road, worth £7,446 in evaded duty.
European Supermarket owner Florin Iordan, 28, had stashed almost 12,000 non-duty paid cigarettes and 1.35kg of hand-rolling tobacco behind a fridge.
Dako Osman, 26, who worked at Local Choice Mini Market, hid more than 13,000 cigarettes in a disused fuse box.
Tim Atkins, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Neither Iordan nor Osman had a leg to stand on once we found the hidden tobacco in their shops. They knew what they were doing was wrong and have been rightly punished for their greed.
“The sale of illegal tobacco will not be tolerated by us or our partner agencies. Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2.5 billion a year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders. We ask anyone with information about suspected tax fraud to contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”
Iordan, of Grasmere Road, confirmed the cigarettes and tobacco were his and said the takings from selling them were kept in a tub rather than putting them through the till.
He admitted evading excise duty at Blackpool Magistrates Court on November 27, 2018 and was sentenced to repay the £3,636 in lost duty, a £120 fine, £85 court costs and £35 victim surcharge.
Osman, of Lytham Road, told HMRC investigators he sold the illegal cigarettes for £4 a packet. He admitted evading excise duty at Blackpool Magistrates Court on Wednesday, January 30 and was ordered to pay a £1,500 compensation order, £120 fine, £85 court costs and £35 victim surcharge.