Woman fined over illegal tobacco haul at King’s Lynn shop
The boss of a Lynn shop from which thousands of illicit cigarettes were seized knew nothing about them and had refused to sell illegal products, a court has heard.
Lawyers for Joana Laurusonyte say she only took the role as director of Lynn Express in Norfolk Street at the request of her then partner.
But, because of that, she was liable for the items discovered there during a joint raid by police and Trading Standards officers.
Laurusonyte, 23, of St Michael’s Road, South Lynn, was fined a total of £425 and ordered to pay £750 costs, plus a £43 victim surcharge when she appeared in court yesterday.
She had previously pleaded guilty to two charges of possessing goods with a false trademark for sale and one of supplying tobacco products without required health warnings.
Jamie Sawyer, prosecuting on behalf of Norfolk Trading Standards, told the court the case related to a search of the premises conducted on January 12 last year.
A previous inspection had also revealed evidence relating to illegal products at the store.
During the later raid, more than 10,000 illicit cigarettes and around 1.25 kilograms of illegal rolling tobacco were discovered.
The items were estimated to be worth more than £5,000 and would have been liable for around £3,500 in duty.
Most of the items did not carry health warnings printed in English, as required by the regulations for the sale of tobacco.
The others had marks deemed likely to be mistaken for the trademarks of the Winston Blue and Mayfair cigarette brands respectively.
The court was told the products had been found within a cooker and through a hole in the floor.
Mr Sawyer said a “sophisticated concealment device” had been used to hide the items.
He added: “This was a commercial amount of tobacco products. Clearly they were being sold from that location.”
Lynn Express had been incorporated as a private limited company in May 2016 with Laurusonyte as its sole director.
Several weeks prior to the raid, she had also submitted an application to West Norfolk Council for the premises licence for the shop to be transferred to her from her then partner, Sarhad Salari. It was refused.
Mr Sawyer said Salari had previously been dealt with in relation to the case at a separate crown court hearing.
Devon Small, mitigating, said he had represented Salari at that hearing and he fully accepted responsibility for the offences.
He said Laurusonyte only agreed to be director of the company at his request and without any retail or management experience.
He added that she had previously refused a request by Salari to sell illegal products and the relationship between them had since ended.
The court also heard Laurusonyte had not been at the shop on the day of the raid, having only recently returned to Britain from her native Lithuania, where she had been visiting her terminally ill father, who has subsequently died.
Mr Small said she had initially denied the charges against her, as she did not believe she had done anything wrong, but changed her plea to guilty on the day of her trial last month following further legal advice.
He added: “She has learnt her lesson. Through me, she expresses her remorse and regret at what happened. She has moved on with her life from that business and her business partner.”