An off-licence shop in Huddersfield has had its alcohol licence revoked after illegal cigarettes were found concealed behind the pick-and-mix sweet display.
Police and West Yorkshire Trading Standards officers visited Rio Foods, 229A Bradford Road, Fartown, after complaints that illegal cigarettes were being sold from the shop.
A specially-trained tobacco sniffer dog was sent into the shop and found illicit cigarettes hidden inside a cabinet behind the pick-and-mix display and also in a store in the backyard.
In total 2,357 illegal cigarettes were found. If they had been sold at the equivalent of UK duty-paid prices of £10.50 per packet, the haul would have been worth £24,748.
As a result of the find West Yorkshire Police asked Kirklees Council to carry out a review of the premises licence.
The matter was brought before councillors at a licensing panel at Huddersfield Town Hall. After a brief hearing the panel decided to revoke the licence.
Kirklees police licensing officer PC Jagger told the panel that West Yorkshire Police had received information from the public that illegal cigarettes were being sold from Rio Foods.
On July 18 this year, police and Trading Standards officers visited Rio Foods with a tobacco dog. A search found an elaborate concealment behind the pick-and-mix.
PC Jagger said: “The tobacco dog indicated that tobacco was hidden in the rear of a display for pick-and-mix sweets. It was not immediately obvious where the tobacco was and took Trading Standards an amount of time to find a concealment hidden in the rear of the display cabinet.
“This concealment had to be opened by a long pin hidden near to the cabinet which pressed a micro switch inside the cabinet and opened the concealment.
“Further cigarettes were found in a storeroom that was located in the backyard of the premises.”
PC Jagger told how keys belonging to the man behind the counter opened two doors where bags and boxes of cigarettes were found.
When the illegal cigarettes were found the man told PC Jagger that he “regretted selling the cigarettes and he would not sell them again. He went on to ask if he would lose his alcohol licence.”
PC Jagger said it was illegal to sell non-duty-paid cigarettes in the UK and an investigation, led by Trading Standards, was underway.
The officer also said that CCTV cameras in the shop were not pointing at the counter area or the concealment area which suggested that “evidence of any sales was being concealed.”
The shop also did not sell any duty-paid cigarettes but sold lighters and cigarette papers.
PC Jagger added: “Further legal action may be taking place to those involved. However, the removal of the alcohol licence is a measure the panel can put in place to show that Kirklees Council will not support or tolerate such illegal activities that is a definite risk to the people of Kirklees.”
In a statement, a Trading Standards officer said the cigarettes were a mix of “counterfeit and smuggled items.” Illegal vapes were also seized.
The statement says: “The sale of counterfeit/illicit tobacco products is not a minor breach of regulations but is, in fact, serious organised criminality. These items which cannot be legally sold in the UK are smuggled into the country on a vast scale.
“The profits of this illegal trade go to criminals while the Treasury is deprived of tax/excise. The current yearly loss in revenue is in excess of £2.5 billion which, in turn, deprives public services of funding.”
After a short period of private deliberation by the panel, chairman Clr Amanda Pinnock announced that the licence would be revoked, saying the breaches of the licence were “extremely serious” and “dangerous.”
No one from the shop attended the hearing.