THE NEW owner of a Cowley shop which has a history of selling smuggled cigarettes has been fined for continuing the illegal practice.

Sabah Haji-Khalil, who now runs Matean Market, admitted to four offences at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Monday of possessing smuggled cigarettes with an intent to supply.

He was joined in the dock by his former employee, Ismaeel Abdul-Kareem, who pleaded guilty to two offences of physically selling the contraband.

The court heard on September 29, 2018, 11 packets of Polish Marlboro Gold cigarettes were bought for £66 from the Hollow Way shop as part of an undercover sting, with Abdul-Kareem asking the customer to leave the shop while the cigarettes were retrieved from a hidden area.

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On November 13, 2018 another test purchase of Polish Marlboro Gold cigarettes was made, this time for £6.50, with a further 260 illegal cigarettes seized shortly afterwards when they were discovered concealed in an e-cigarette display case.

Haji-Khalil, 38, of Hollow Way, initially claimed in a police interview he did not know his staff were selling illicit tobacco from the shop or why the money from the sales went into the till.

Sales assistant Abdul-Kareem, of Nowell Road, Oxford, admitted that he had sold the smuggled cigarettes and that it not the the only time he had done so.

The 47-year-old was caught earlier this year attempting to smuggle more than 80,000 illegal cigarettes with unpaid duty and VAT of £28,334 into the UK via Manchester airport.

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He was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for two years, at Manchester Crown Court on March 25. For the Matean Market offences Abdul-Kareem was fined £730 and Haji-Khalil £1,330.

This is not the first time the shop has been linked with illegal cigarette sales.

In September the store’s former owner Hazhar Merahmad was fined more than £6,500 after pleading guilty to 10 offences concerning the supply of illegal tobacco from the Cowley shop.

Amar Hassan, was also fined £600 in July for selling Pect and L & M cigarettes, both banned from being sold in the UK, from the shop on three occasions between Decemeber 2017 and May 2018.

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Matean Market continues to trade at Hollow Way.

Head of Oxfordshire Trading Standards, Jody Kerman, said: “The 25 packets of illegal cigarettes in this case have ultimately cost the defendants over £2,000. Criminals peddling their illicit wares should be under no illusion that whenever we find this type of unlawful activity, we will clamp down on it.”

Retailers selling illegal tobacco could lose their alcohol licence, face unlimited fines and be jailed for up to 10 years.

Shop staff involved in the sale of illegal tobacco can also face unlimited fines and imprisonment.

Anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco should contact 0300 999 6 999 or report it anonymously via