A BRIERLEY HILL shopkeeper has been hit with a £60,000 bill after hundreds of illegal cigarettes and tobacco were found stashed in a false wall in his shop.

The illegal haul was discovered during a raid at Istanbul Mini-Market on Brierley Hill high street by Dudley Council trading standard officers and a tobacco detection dog.

All of the products failed to comply with UK regulations requiring health warnings to be displayed and quantities of five brands were found to be counterfeit.

Duty evaded on the haul was approximately £4,400.

Ali Ibrahim Hamad, aged 45, from West Bromwich, pleaded guilty to seven offences in July 2018 and he was sentenced to a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months at Wolverhampton Crown Court last month.

He was found to have assets of £58 923.09, which is below the estimated £65,600 value of the benefit of the crime, and was therefore ordered to pay the entire amount under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

If he fails to pay, he could have an extra six months added to his custodial sentence.

He was also ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and pay costs to Dudley Council of £5,028.

A spokesperson from Dudley Council said it was a 'landmark' case for the borough as it is the first time the proceeds of the crime have been seized on top of the usual financial penalties imposed by the court.

Martin Samuels, Dudley Council’s strategic director for people, said: "Selling illegal tobacco is a serious crime and offenders need to know that the council will take action not only to seize and destroy illegal products but also to seek to close down premises and to confiscate assets made from committing these crimes.

"This is the first case in Dudley borough where assets arising from the benefit of the crimes have been confiscated on top of the usual punishments and has resulted in the offender losing far more than the value of the illegal product seized. Our message to other shops involved in this illegal activity is we will pursue the same action against you, which may result in you losing all your assets.”