A SHOPKEEPER was caught out selling illegal cigarettes and alcohol in a bid to keep his business afloat.

Gurnam Bajaas, was running Bailey’s Corner in Cheney Manor Road when police and trading standards officers received information that counterfeit tobacco was being sold.

Prosecutor Keith Ballinger told Swindon magistrates there was an undercover purchase on July 21 when Bajaas was asked for cheap cigarettes.

The court heard he produced some from under the counter and charged the fake shopper £5.

The cigarettes had no packing code on the bottom and officers believed them to be counterfeit.

They went back and found the defendant’s partner at the store.

“She was asked if there were any items that were counterfeit or not duty paid. She indicated a bag under the counter,” said Mr Ballinger.

Inside they found foreign-labelled packets of cigarettes and packs of loose tobacco.

A subsequent search recovered bottles of alcohol that still had their supermarket security tags attached and four 20-litre containers of diesel.

In an interview Bajaas, 30, now of Salisbury Road, Hounslow, London, said he started selling them because a neighbour did so and would buy the tobacco from a Romanian man.

The shop turned over between £600 and £700 a week and he did not make much profit.

He told the investigators he would buy the booze from women who came into the store.

Mr Ballinger said: “He says he knew the alcohol was probably stolen because the tags were still on it, but it was cheaper than buying it from the cash and carry.”

He claimed he was offered the cheap diesel which he was told had been bought using the fuel card of a friend who worked for a big company.

James Melvin, defending, said Bajaas no longer had the shop and the licence had been taken away in December.

He had been the manager and had got into financial difficulties. He had borrowed money for the business, which he had to pay back. “The business was losing money and he took some very silly and illegal risks to try and remedy things,” he said.

But of the £4,000 of alcohol stock seized by the police only five bottles were tagged. The number of cigarette packs involved was 78.

The impact on Bajaas’s life had been significant. “From being a manager he is now a pizza delivery driver for Domino’s, paid £7.50 an hour, which is what he used to pay his staff.”

Mr Melvin said: “He is very, very sorry.

“It is an embarrassment to him and his family.

“His parents are not best pleased with him and there are unseen complications form him for getting involved in these offences.

The bench imposed a one-year community order with 150 hours of unpaid work. He was also told to pay £170 towards costs and victim services.