A Ware shopkeeper pleaded guilty to selling illegal tobacco, following an operation by Hertfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards service.

Sukru Yildiz, 40, of Doncaster Road, London, sole director of Duvar Limited trading as Ware Food Centre, was fined £500 and ordered to pay costs of £680 and a £20 victim surcharge at Watford Magistrates’ Court on Monday 20 July.

The offences relate to over 270 illicit tobacco products. None of the tobacco products had the correct labelling; they did not have English written and pictorial warnings.

Towards the end of 2014, the shop had unwittingly tried to sell “cheap” hidden cigarettes to one of their customers, unaware that he was an off-duty community protection manager for Hertfordshire County Council.

The court heard that, as part of a joint operation with HMRC on 3 December 2014, trading standards officers attended the premises with a tobacco detection dog.

The dog found Marlboro Gold cigarettes and Golden Virginia hand-rolling tobacco hidden in drawers beneath a photocopier without the correct labelling.

Yildiz admitted to Hertfordshire Trading Standards that the tobacco was hidden as he was aware that it was illegal. He explained that the construction of a newly built supermarket nearby had affected his trade. He also said that he had started “secret selling” as he was struggling to pay the bills.

In mitigation, the court was asked to take into account Yildiz’s early guilty plea, his previous good character and his co-operation with the investigation by trading standards. He said he was remorseful and would not be selling the products again.

In sentencing, magistrates explained that this was a serious matter.

Richard Thake, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “Alongside other agencies, we will continue to tackle the supply of illegal tobacco and support the vast majority of law-abiding businesses to ensure they are not put at a disadvantage for selling tobacco products legally. One of the ways the government aims to deter young people from starting to smoke is on price. Availability of cheap illicit cigarettes clearly undermines this strategy.”

Members of the public can report shops which they believe are trading illegally to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06. Businesses needing advice should contact Hertfordshire Trading Standards' business advice line on 01707 281401.