More than 40,000 illicit cigarettes and nearly 5kg of rolling tobacco have been seized in a sting operation by Waltham Forest Council and HMRC.

On first inspection of the 98p Plus Extra shop in Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, officers confiscated more than 11,000 cigarettes and 1.68kg of rolling tobacco which violated UK legal requirements for labelling and packaging tobacco products.

During a later inspection, Waltham Forest Trading Standards discovered another 30,020 illicit cigarettes and 3.65kg of foreign rolling tobacco that violated tobacco products regulations.

On June 13, Mr Salim Ahmed, director of Bismillah London Ltd, the company owning the shop, pleaded guilty at Thames Magistrates court to ten charges brought by Waltham Forest Trading Standards for the sale of illicit tobacco products.

Mr Ahmed previously stated he received the tobacco from an unknown eastern European man who persuaded him to sell it to boost his profit margins and he said he had not inspected the cigarettes purchased.

He had also stated there were no records of the number of tobacco products he had sold and he wasn’t aware of the law relating to the labelling and packaging of tobacco products.

According to the council, the illicit tobacco trade has strong links with organised crime and criminal gangs. Many of the people smuggling, distributing and selling illicit tobacco are involved in drug dealing, money laundering and people trafficking.

Cllr Clyde Loakes, deputy leader and cabinet member for the environment, said: “We’re committed to help every resident in Waltham Forest make the most of their life chances. This also mean protecting them from the harms of legal and illicit tobacco.

“People who sell illegal tobacco do not care who they sell it to. Children and young smokers are often targeted by these criminals, making it easier for them to get hooked on smoking from a young age.

“Retailers should always ensure they comply with the UK regulations for tobacco products, in order not to incur expensive fines. However it is disappointing that the judge in this case decided to hand out such paltry fines and costs.

“If we are serious about eradicating such criminal activity then we need tougher fines and penalties to be laid at those involved, to ensure that crime does not pay.”

Both Bismillah London Ltd, as well as Mr Ahmed received fines of £3,133, including £500 in court costs and a £33 victim surcharged to be paid by both the director and the company.

The seized products were imported without paying tax and violated UK Regulations on labelling and packaging for Tobacco and Related Products.