Oxford Shopkeeper Jailed For Selling Smuggled Cigarettes

11 April 2019, 15:15 | Updated: 11 April 2019, 15:27

Oxford smuggled cigarettes

An Oxford shop owner who sold smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes has been jailed.

Karzan Rostam, proprietor of Cowley Department Store on Cowley Road has been sentenced to 12 months in prison at Oxford Magistrates Court.

The 46-year-old pleaded guilty to 25 charges of supplying or possessing for sale smuggled and fake cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco. He also asked the Court to take into consideration a further 52 offences.

The court heard that Rostam was spotted on 25 February last year selling 11 packets of contraband cigarettes in an undercover sting at Euro Supermarket. 

During the transaction, which was recorded, the covert officer was told that in future cigarettes could be purchased from a new shop opening a few doors down.

That business was Cowley Department Store which, following further test purchases, was raided by officers from Oxfordshire County Council's Trading Standards team on 20 May 2018, assisted by local police officers.

It led to the seizure of more than 20,000 cigarettes and nearly 3kg of hand-rolling tobacco.

More than half of the haul was discovered hidden behind a false wall of tiles in the shop's kitchen. The sniffing skills of specialist tobacco detection dog, Scamp resulted in the find.

Rostam, who had already been twice-convicted for like offences and served a four-month prison sentence in 2016, was undeterred. A tip-off from a member of the public led to officers swooping on the store once again, seizing further cigarettes and tobacco on 16 July 2018.

Jody Kerman, Oxfordshire County Council's Trading Standards Operations Manager, said: "This sentence sends a strong message to anyone thinking about getting involved in the illegal tobacco trade.

"We have a team of skilled and dedicated Trading Standards professionals, who will relentlessly investigate those involved in peddling this public health menace. In this case, Mr Rostam has paid a high price".

Sniffer dog Scamp, who helped Trading Standards officers detect the hidden contraband, has become such a threat to criminal gangs that a price of £25,000 has been placed on his head.

Scamp is part of Pembrokeshire-based BWY Canine, which works with over 100 UK councils to detect illegal tobacco, often hidden within sophisticated concealments.

His owner Stuart Phillips said the spaniel's powerful sense of smell had upset "some very nasty people". Mr Phillips said: "We had to stop working in one part of the country last year, because there was a £25,000 bounty put on Scamp's head.

"It was believed to be linked to an organised crime group and the relevant authorities were informed.

"I've also had death threats, my windscreen has been smashed and my tyres slashed."