A husband and wife have been handed suspended sentences and fined after using their kitchen mixing bowl to concoct toxic skin whitening products.
The conviction comes after the first-ever national investigation into dangerous and illegal skin bleaching products, lead by Southwark Council’s Trading Standards.
Couple Jonathan and Holiness Ikpere, both of Warren Road in Southsea, were sentenced at Inner London Crown Court earlier this month after pleading guilty at earlier hearings in March and August 2019.
The duo were sentenced to costs and fines of £17,000, and a community order of 60 hours each.
They were also given a suspended custodial sentence of six months for him and four months for her, in place for one year, and a community order of 60 hours each.
Southwark Council brought the prosecution following a raid on the Ikpere’s previous address at Towpath Mead, Southsea in March last year.
Along with local police and Portsmouth City Council, Trading Standards seized nearly 3,000 toxic skin whitening products which the couple had illegally imported from Nigeria.
At the family home officers found a mixing bowl in the kitchen which the pair were using to produce the dangerous products.
They contained raw hydroquinone, a toxic substance which has been likened to paint stripper, increases skin cancer risk and can even cause fatal liver and kidney damage.
The pair marketed their products under the brand name ‘Favourisms Queenette’.
One offensively-titled product containing hydroquinone, called ‘Half Caste Lotion’, even starred Mrs Ikepere’s face on the bottles.
Despite the serious health dangers, evidence found on 29-year-old Mrs Ikpere’s phone revealed that she told one concerned customer that her products did not contain hydroquinone.
When the pair were barred from selling on E-Bay, they agreed to continue through their own website rather than stop, further phone evidence showed.
- Warning over toxic skin whitening creams that ‘act like paint stripper’
- East Street shop-keeper gets 20 months in jail in landmark skin whitening product prosecution
The court heard how three online covert purchases were made by Southwark’s investigators, arousing suspicions that the Ikperes were leading a supply business for illegal skin whitening.
Council officials warned E-Bay over their illegal sales, leading the website to put restrictions in place to stop similar products being listed.
Mr Ikpere, a 32-year-old PHD student at Portsmouth University, set up the PayPal accounts to take payments for eBay and other online purchases with a turnover of more than £100,000.
“Sellers of dangerous and illegal skin lightening products should know that they have nowhere to hide,” said the council’s Cllr Victoria Mills.
“Our Trading Standards team is active on our high streets, but has now stepped up and employed its expertise to help stamp out the sale of these products online.
“We are proud to have led this national initiative that has seen the perpetrators brought to justice and thousands of pounds worth of dangerous products removed from circulation.”
Council officers have also issued 23 warnings to other online sellers about selling illegal skin whiteners and passed on details of traders to other trading standards teams.
As the News last week reported, a warning has been issued to shoppers to avoid the ‘paint-stripper’ products, often marketed at people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
Safe skin lightening creams can be expensive to buy, meaning cheaper, illegal versions are flooding the market.
Anyone who has bought a skin lightening cream which they think contains banned ingredients such as hydroquinone should report it to Southwark Trading Standards.