A BUTCHER has been caught stocking and selling more than 13,000 illegal cigarettes at his shop in Greenock.

Adam Johnstone-Smith was raided THREE times in less than two months as he persisted in continuing his bootleg enterprise.

The 71-year-old even hid part of the haul in a vat of spice mix for sausages in a possible bid to throw sniffer dogs off the scent.

When approached by the Telegraph he said candidly: "I done it and I got caught.

"It's just one those things and I've just got to get on with I suppose."

He added: "I was retired for five years and then I came back and I tried to pull the shop up and it was just a matter of trying to make ends meet.

"So I'm just going to take my punishment and move on."

Johnstone-Smith — who had 13,360 counterfeit cigarettes seized — claimed he'd resorted to the illicit sideline because his business was in 'dire straits'.

But a sheriff declared that he 'must have made significant money' from dealing in the inferior quality tobacco from his J. Maitland Butcher's on Lynedoch Street.

HMRC and Trading Standards teams swooped on the shop on June 16 last year and confiscated an initial 8,400 cigarettes and 1.7 kilos of rolling tobacco.

Prosecutor David Glancy told Greenock Sheriff Court: "Further intelligence was received that he was continuing to sell cigarettes.

"The shop was searched again on July 7 and and 4,300 cigarettes were seized.

"Credible information came in again that he was continuing to sell tobacco.

"A third visit with dogs on August 17 yielded yet more cigarettes and packs of rolling tobacco concealed within a plastic bin containing spice mix, for sausages and the like.

"Analysis of the products identified them as being counterfeit."

The number of fake 'Mayfair' branded cigarettes confiscated in the raids equates to 668 packs of 20, which would normally collectively retail for around £6,400 for the real product.

Johnstone-Smith — whom the court heard has ran his meat shop since 1977 — also had a total of four kilos of bogus rolling tobacco, and such an amount of authentic smoking mixture is worth £1,700.

Fiscal depute Mr Glancy said: "He gave an initial 'no comment' interview, then made a number of admissions that he was selling the tobacco because the margins were pretty good.

"He indicated that he'd got the products from 'an Indian in Glasgow'."

The court heard that the brazen butcher was caught fencing stolen watches 12 years ago and was fined.

His lawyer, Gerry Keenan, confirmed: "He reset watches in his business premises and received a monetary penalty in 2006."

Mr Keenan said of the tobacco offences: "He was in dire straits to provide a solution to problems he was having with his business, and it appears that he was approached."

Sheriff Thomas Ward questioned how someone would approach him out of the blue, or how Johnstone-Smith would have the knowledge to approach someone himself regarding selling on illegal tobacco.

The sheriff added: "You wouldn't normally enter a butcher's shop and ask for ten fags."

Johnstone-Smith pleaded guilty to being knowingly concerned in carrying, harbouring, concealing or in any other manner dealing goods which were chargeable with duty and did this with intent to 'defraud Her Majesty' of £4,548.

The court heard that he had paid the duty prior to his sentencing hearing.

Sheriff Ward told Johnstone-Smith: "You were nothing if not persistent.

"You were identified as doing this and the tobacco was impounded, and then you did it again, and then again.

"I don't know if it was desperation because of difficulties you were in, but it was foolhardy."

The sheriff added: "I take account of the fact that you have repaid the money, and that is the only reason that you are not going to custody today.

"You must have made significant money.

"It is worse that the products you were peddling were counterfeit."

Smith was ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work within six months as a direct alternative to prison.

A HMRC spokesman said: "The sale of illegal tobacco will not be tolerated by us or our partner agencies. Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2.5 billion a year.

"This is stealing from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.

"We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to contact our fraud hotline on 0800 788 887."