Pensioner’s cigs racket paid for Benidorm holidays

Johnny Vegas in the TV series Benidorm
Johnny Vegas in the TV series Benidorm

A ST Helens pensioner has admitted selling illegal cigarettes from his home to fund sun-soaked holidays to Benidorm.

For more than two years Leslie Briers used his ill-gotten gains to boost his lifestyle and jet-off on breaks to the popular Spanish resort.

But the 74-year-old, who lives in a corner property on Bruce Street, near Queens Park, with his dog, was finally brought to task last summer by police and trading standards officers.

On a visit to his home last June, police uncovered a large stash of illicit black market cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco.

The hoard included fake Regal King Size, non duty paid Golden Virginia and a variety of “cheap whites” – unbranded cigarettes produced in China and Eastern Europe which have no legitimate place on the UK market.

Officers also found that some of the packs contained only “dummy” polystyrene cigarettes and none were labelled with the required health warnings.

St Helens Magistrates’ Court – sitting at Huyton – heard on Monday (February 27) how Briers bought the illegal cigarettes from people who had approached him in the town centre.

For more than two years he used cash made from sales at his home to improve his lifestyle and jet-off on trips to Benidorm – where he also bought cigarettes.

Magistrates ordered Briers to complete a four-month curfew, in which he must be at home between 7pm and 7am.

He was also ordered to pay £706 in costs to St Helens Council, following a prosecution brought by local trading standards officers.

When approached by the St Helens Reporter, Briers declined to comment on his actions.

Coun Alison Bacon, St Helens Council’s cabinet member for environmental protection, said: “This prosecution sends a message to other unscrupulous individuals who put their profit before the health of our residents.”

Anyone with information about the supply of illegal tobacco should report it either to the Trading Standards Regional Illicit Tobacco Enforcement Team on 01925 442 466 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.