THE owner of a Polish deli has been jailed for more than two years after almost 25,000 illegal cigarettes were discovered.

Jacek Mazurek, 46, owner of the Witney Polish Deli in Corn Street was given a 28-month prison sentence at Oxford Crown Court.

He pleaded guilty to being the ringleader of an illegal tobacco fraud and admitted to running the deli for the fraudulent purpose of selling counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes between 2013 and 2018.

Mazurek’s employee Sylwia Jablonska, 42, and former sales assistant Malgorzata Gerwatowska, 34, were also both sentenced to 10 months in prison, suspended for two years.

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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.

Jablonska was described as the ‘custodian’ for allowing the illegal tobacco to be stored in her house, while Gerwatowska was the ‘runner’, retrieving the cigarettes and supplying them to customers in the shop.

A warrant was executed at Jablonska’s home in October 2018 when nearly 25,000 illegal cigarettes were seized from a locked cupboard.

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

Witney Polish Deli in Corn Street. Picture: Google Maps

Witney Polish Deli in Corn Street. Picture: Google Maps

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

Judith Heathcoat, the 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.”

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Jody Kerman, the 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 trio were sentenced on Friday.

In January 2019, Witney Polish Deli became the first shop in Oxfordshire to be stripped of its alcohol licence following several undercover stings by Oxfordshire County Council trading standards.