A WOMAN caught selling fake tobacco brands and smuggled cigarettes out of a shopping trolley has seen her profits go up in smoke.
She is now £17,000 out of pocket after she was spotted going about her illegal trade in and around Aberafan Shopping Centre.
The woman, who is not being named, was dealt with by way of a caution for the initial offences. But she was hit hard in the pocket under the proceeds of crime legislation.
Neath Port Talbot Council principal trading standards officer Steve Adie said the woman had been selling counterfeit-branded pouches of tobacco.
She had also sold genuine brands of cigarettes that had been “improperly imported”, both for considerably lower than the genuine retail price.
She was caught after an investigation involving trading standards and the shopping centre’s security team.
“Officers found more than 300 packets of tobacco and cigarettes in her trolley,” said Mr Adie.
“These were seized, and when we searched her home we found a further 23,000 cigarettes.
“That sounds like a lot but they were in cartons of 200 so they did not take up a lot of space.
“They were also seized, as was around £24,000 in cash which was found at the house.”
The woman, who is from Port Talbot, is not believed to have been involved with cigarette smuggling, but obtained them from a supplier.
Mr Adie said she was able to prove that £7,000 of the money came from a legitimate source of income.
However, she could not offer any such proof for the remainder and so an application under the Proceeds of Crime Act was made at Neath Magistrates’ Court.
That led to the woman being ordered to forfeit £17,000.
Although the money has been surrendered to the Home Office, Mr Adie said around £8,000 would be returned to Neath Port Talbot Council to help with its ongoing trading standards operations.
“Our team is working hard to root out anyone selling counterfeit tobacco.
“It costs the UK economy many millions of pounds a year and we will do everything we can to keep illegal tobacco off the county’s streets,” he added.