TWO Dudley shops have ceased trading after counterfeit and illegal cigarettes and tobacco were seized from the premises.

European Food Express on Dudley High Street faces a further three months of closure, after Dudley Council took the store to court to extend a Closure Order that was originally applied in December 2018 and was in place for three months.

This followed a number of seizures of counterfeit and illegal cigarettes and tobacco over the previous two years and the prosecution of two people involved.

The shop will now remain closed until June while council chiefs work with the store's new owners to implement measures to prevent illegal sales resuming.

The leaseholder of Dudley Stores, also based on Dudley High Street, was found guilty of five offences involving the sale of illegal and counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco.

Sirdar Rashid, aged 42, now living in London, was sentenced to a 12 month community order, ordered to undertake 60 hours unpaid work and pay £400 towards costs as well as a victim surcharge of £85.

Wolverhampton Magistrates' Court heard how trading standards officers visited the premises in October 2016 with a tobacco dog and handler, accompanied by police officers. They found 242 packets of cigarettes and tobacco, the majority of which were counterfeit.

Some were found hidden in a void behind a mirror in a store room and others in boxes and bags at the back of the store, as well as on a counter behind the till.

The five offences included three relating to the possession of counterfeit brands, one offence of possessing 242 packets which did not contain the necessary health warnings and one offence relating to the possession of criminal property for which duty had not been paid.

It was estimated that the duty evaded on the haul was approximately £1,500.

Dudley Council confirmed that the business closed down in 2017 after the landlord took action to repossess the premises due to the illegal activity.

Councillor Gaye Partridge, cabinet member responsible for communities, said: "Selling illegal tobacco is a crime and offenders need to know that the council will take action to apply to the courts to close down premises and prosecute offenders if they choose to deal in illegal products.

"While all smoking is harmful, illegal tobacco is sold at low prices and without the necessary health warnings which makes it easier for children and young smokers to get hooked on smoking and harder for people to quit.

"These crimes impact negatively on health and our community and deprives legitimate businesses of revenue and robs the tax payer of money that could be spent on schools and hospitals.”

Anyone who has concerns about illegal tobacco in their area should contact trading standards on 01384 818871 or call the Central England trading standards hotline anonymously on 0845 894 1008.