A North London newsagent was fined more than £6,000 after sniffer dogs helped uncover 14,000 illegal cigarettes hidden in his shop. 

Mihai Lupes, 58, who ran Bacovia Ltd in Neasden Lane, was found to be selling Romanian-labelled tobacco that didn’t display proper health warnings. 

Brent and Harrow Trading Standards visited his shop in July 2021 where, with the help of a sniffer dog, they managed to find 700 packets of dodgy cigarettes. According to Brent Council, these were being sold for £8 a pack, which is roughly £5 less than the retail value. 


Lupes, who lived in Brent’s Neasden Lane but has since returned to Romania, was handed a series of fines totalling £6,096. During the officers’ visit, he insisted he was “clean” but, once a locked storage cupboard was opened, the mislabelled tobacco was discovered. 

Lupes had previously been prosecuted twice for similar offences, and once for selling alcohol to an underage customer. The magistrates said: “This is the third similar offence and you learnt no lessons. You keep committing the same offence.”

Cllr Harbi Farah, lead councillor for safer communities and public protection at Brent Council, said: “Selling illegal tobacco puts people’s lives at risk and can do real damage. I hope this case sets an important example that we will go after heedless law-breakers to protect the public’s health and get illegal tobacco products off the streets.”

According to the council, Lupes has since closed the business, where he said he reported losses of £400,000. The trading standards’ investigation was part of Operation CeCe – a national initiative in partnership with HMRC that aims to tackle illegal tobacco trading at all levels. 

In 2021, the Brent and Harrow branch, using their sniffer dogs, uncovered almost 90,000 dodgy cigarettes, as well as 4kg of rolling tobacco and 45kg of shisha and smokeless tobacco. 

A trading standards’ report said: “The use of sniffer dogs during visits to businesses has been worthwhile as the dogs have been able to locate illegal tobacco products that are hidden within the business such as compartments located under the floor or concealed shelving underneath the counter.”