A PAIR of crooks have been handed hefty fines for selling counterfeit tobacco over Facebook.

Michael Light of Great Ranton, Basildon and Lauren Marie Squelch of St Chads Road, Tilbury flogged the tobacco on social media and have now been fined thousands of pounds.

At Southend Magistrates’ Court on September 7, Michael Light admitted four counts of selling and possessing counterfeit tobacco.

He was sentenced to a fine of £800 and required to pay a £34 victim surcharge.

The court also imposed a requirement for Mr Light to pay £500 towards the investigation costs and an order was made for forfeiture and destruction of all the fake tobacco.

Lauren Marie Squelch also appeared at the court on September 13 to admit selling counterfeit tobacco products that broke The Trademarks Act 1994.

Ms Squelch was sentenced to a fine of £120 and ordered to pay costs of £200 and a £34 victim surcharge.

Following initial contact online, evidence of the offences for both cases was obtained as a result of face to-face test purchases, conducted in June and July 2020.

In both instances, five illegal lots of 50g packs of roll your own tobacco were purchased. Both cases were brought by TM Eye as a private criminal prosecution on behalf of Japan Tobacco International.

Charlie Cunningham-Reid, UK head of corporate affairs at JTI , said: “We welcome the decision made by the Court for both offences. JTI is committed to helping tackle the problem of illegal tobacco and we will not hesitate to take similar action in future.

“Selling illegal tobacco damages legitimate business and makes it easier for young people to get hold of tobacco products.”

The illicit tobacco trade remains a serious problem and JTI insisted it is committed to “supporting retailers and defending its own brands by supporting a range of measures including private prosecutions and gantry removals”.