THE ringleader of an illegal tobacco fraud has pleaded guilty after a raid found nearly 25,000 illegal cigarettes.

Jacek Mazurek admitted to running Witney Polish Deli for the fraudulent purpose of selling counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes between 2013 and 2018 at Oxford Crown Court yesterday.

Joining him in the dock were the 46-year-old’s employee Sylwia Jablonska, 42, described in court as the ‘custodian’ for allowing the illegal tobacco to be stored in her house, and former sales assistant Malgorzata Gerwatowska, 33, who acted as the ‘runner’, retrieving the cigarettes and supplying them to customers in the shop.

The case was brought by Oxfordshire County Council’s trading standards team.

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It followed a raid at Jablonska’s home in October 2018 when nearly 25,000 illegal cigarettes were seized from a locked cupboard.

Later examination by experts showed that the haul included over 6,000 counterfeit Marlboro Gold cigarettes that were labelled in German.

The trio were arrested and interviewed by trading standards officers at Abingdon police station.

Jablonska pleaded guilty to possessing counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes that did not display the required health warnings and Gerwatowska admitted her role in supplying smuggled cigarettes. The trio will be sentenced on January 5.

Oxford Mail:

Judith Heathcoat, the county council’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “This illegal activity brings crime into our neighbourhoods, that’s why it is so important to clamp down on it.

“It also has an impact on those legitimate businesses that are trading lawfully, putting them at a commercial disadvantage by criminals peddling their illicit wares.”

Oxford Mail:

Jody Kerman, the county council’s head of trading standards, added: “Cracking down on the illegal tobacco trade is one of our top priorities for action, not only because smoking remains one of the UK’s biggest causes of premature death but we also know that the availability of cheap, illegal tobacco helps recruit the next generation of smokers and undermines initiatives to help adults quit smoking.”

The sale of illegal tobacco is a criminal offence which can result in imprisonment and unlimited fines.

In January 2019, Witney Polish Deli in Corn Street became the first shop in Oxfordshire to be stripped of its alcohol licence following several undercover stings by the county council.

Staff including Mazurek were caught selling illegal tobacco from the premises.

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The shop sold smuggled cigarettes that were retrieved from behind a curtain on four occasions in 2018.

After a request to review the licence of the shop by the county council’s trading standards, West Oxfordshire District Council’s licensing panel agreed the premises had been actively involved in the sale of illegal cigarettes and revoked the licence.

To anonymously report the selling of illegal tobacco, visit or call the illegal tobacco hotline on 0300 999 6 999.