A SHOPKEEPER who was found in possession of over £900 in counterfeit cash has avoided a spell behind bars.

A trading standards investigation into Saqib Ali, the owner of Faizal Mini Market in Brierfield, was launched by trading standards following concerns over illegal tobacco being sold inside his shop.

In March 2019, the 42-year-old’s home and business were searched in a joint investigation with the police leading to the discovery of 47 fake £20 notes and knock-off tobacco.

He was issued with a community order for the cigarette offences at a lower court and sent to the crown court to be dealt with for the counterfeit money.

Prosecuting the case, David Clarke said the money was found concealed inside an envelope in the defendant’s water cupboard.

He said: “The defendant was interviewed in October 2019 and he explained that at the shop there was a facility for customers to make arrangements for foreign travel exchange. He explained a customer came into the shop and handed this money over to him with a view that it would be sent to another country.

“He started the transaction and he realised that the money wasn’t real and told the man he needed ID.

“He got nervous and never returned. Rather than bringing this to attention of the police he took the money home. He did not return the money or call the police.”

Mr Clarke also explained that while a search of Ali’s home was taking place a further £6,000 in legitimate cash was discovered and later eliminated from the investigation following the production of receipts.

Defending Ali, Barbara Webster said her client had maintained the same account of how he had received the money all along.

Imposing a community order upon Ali, of Chapel Street, Brierfield, Judge Phillip Parry said: “Possession of counterfeit currency is always considered as a serious offence. It undermines the whole system of legitimate currency in the country and those who are in possession, even if they do not intend to pass it on, can almost always expect to go to prison.

“I have considered whether I should send you to prison today and there are a number why I have decided against doing that, including the fact that the offence is now one and a half years old and that you have already been sentenced for other trademark offence arising out of this investigation.

“I am told you are abiding by your curfew and so for those reasons you are very lucky I have decided not to send you prison. But if you are ever to find yourself in possession of currency again and don’t notify the police you will go to prison.”

Ali was also ordered to contribute towards the court costs.