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Illicit Alcohol Find Leads to Suspended Sentence

A shop manager has been given a nine month custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months, after a raid carried out by Waltham Forest Council Trading Standards found a huge haul of illicit alcohol on the premises.


In November 2013 officers from the Council’s Trading Standards team, along with officers from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Police and the International Federation of Spirit Producers, visited SFW Express in Leytonstone (24-27 Church Lane, E11), after receiving information about counterfeit alcohol being sold on the premises.


Nearly 250 bottles of alcohol were seized from the shop, including Smirnoff vodka, Bacardi rum and Jacobs Creek wine. All of the alcohol was either counterfeit or no UK tax had been paid on it.


At a formal interview the shop manager, Mohammed Kassim Akram, produced an invoice from the company the alcohol was purchased from, but he admitted that they hadn’t carried out any background check on them beforehand.


Trading Standards were unable to make contact with the company, and their invoice for the alcohol contained some alarming mistakes including incorrect spellings and named a brand of Jacobs Creek wine that did not exist.


The alcohol licence for SFW Express was revoked in June 2014, and the owners failed to have this decision overturned at an appeal hearing in January 2015.


The Council proceeded to prosecute SFW Express and Mohammed Kassim Akram. Both initially pleaded not guilty to offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994 and Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.


However on 7 March 2016, the first day of the trial, the pleas were changed to guilty, and the case was adjourned for sentencing on 8 April 2016 at Snaresbrook Crown Court.


In sentencing the Judge said that counterfeit alcohol poses a serious risk to consumers if it is ingested and that SFW Express did not have any procedures in place to prevent the alcohol from being purchased.


Mohammed Kassim Akram was given a nine month custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months. The sentence is conditional on no further offences being committed and 150 hours of unpaid work being carried out. He was also ordered to pay costs of £9,000. SFW Express was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,000.


The sale of counterfeit alcohol is a serious offence and the contents can be extremely dangerous. Illicit alcohol is often smuggled into the country illegally, and has been linked with serious organised crime.


Waltham Forest Trading Standards aims to protect honest traders and the local economy as well as providing protection to consumers. People can report fake goods to them at trading.standards@walthamforest.gov.uk

If you would like more information about any of these press releases or have a different media enquiry please contact us at media@walthamforest.gov.uk or on 020 8496 4521 / 4802.

For out of hours please email media@walthamforest.gov.uk or call 07966 915 157.