A London man has pleaded guilty to nine counts of selling harmful, illegal skin-lightening products at his store, becoming the first person to receive a jail sentence for selling the toxic creams.
On Tuesday, a Crown Court judge sentenced Mohammed Iqbal Bharodawala, 45, to 20 months in jail for selling products containing the banned ingredient hydroquinone, BBC News reported. The highly toxic chemical, which was banned in the UK in 2001, is known to have damaging effects on the skin, liver and central nervous system.
The father–of–six also admitted to 15 counts of improperly labeling the products, which he sold at his company Jenny’s Cosmetics Ltd. His brother, Abdul Kadar Bharodawala, 35, who ran Jenny’s Cosmetics Online, was sentenced to 80 hours of unpaid work for peddling the harmful creams on online sites like eBay. The company as a whole was fined £500 ($640), according to the news site.
“There’s no doubt that you knew what your obligations were as a distributor of cosmetics products and you shouldn’t have been marketing products which contained banned substances, especially hydroquinone,” Judge Freya Newbery said during sentencing. “I’m quite satisfied you knew exactly what you were selling and sourced them for the people who wanted to buy them from you.”
Citing research from Southwark Council’s Trading Standards, Newbery added, “It’s relevant that … a desire for fairer skin is driven by deep-rooted complex and social, cultural and historical reasons. Here, it seems to me that the marketing and sale of products you were engaged in exploits anxieties and sensitivities of women and men who are culturally and socially motivated to purchase those products which lighten their skin and risk causing damage in the process.”
According to The Guardian, an inspection by the Southwark Council in January led to over 250 items being seized from Jenny’s Cosmetics’ shop floor and stockroom in southeast London. A test purchase of three products on eBay revealed similar creams were being sold by Jenny’s online.
Of the items bought online, a Grace Duo skin whitening cream was found to contain 17.6 percent hydroquinone, a lab analysis showed.
Bharodawala will serve half of his sentence in custody.
Councillor Evelyn Akoto, of Southwark Council, seemed pleased with the brothers’ sentencing.
“It’s sending out a strong message to all the vendors of illegal skin lightening creams that we are actively pursuing you, we are actively going to seek you out and prosecute you as and when we find you,” Akoto said in a statement.