A Boston shop has had its Alcohol Premises Licence revoked after police raided it and uncovered a large quantity of illegal cigarettes.
European Food and Wine, 36 Red Lion Street, was found to have been actively involved in the illegal sale of illicit cigarettes, had repeatedly breached the conditions on their premises licence and Boston Borough Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee said it had no confidence in the ability of the owner Mr Bashdar Hilmi.
Lincolnshire Police’s Alcohol Licensing Team submitted paperwork for a licence review hearing following the seizure of a quantity of illegal cigarettes found hidden in a box on shelving in the store. Police also raised serious concerns in relation to how the store was operating on a daily basis.
The store was initially targeted by Lincolnshire Police with a test purchase operation in which a packet of illegal cigarettes was purchased; this was followed by a raid in October where 1,380 illegal cigarettes were seized.
During this visit the police discovered a host of other concerns – staff who weren’t trained, licence conditions being ignored, alcohol being sold below the mandatory price, a failure to keep records of any type and selling alcohol outside there licensable hours among them
Sergeant Kim Enderby, Alcohol Licensing Manager for Lincolnshire Police, said: “The cigarettes seized were a mixture of non-duty, counterfeit and illicit cigarettes.
"All these are illegal and present numerous hazards to anyone buying them. We had also received intelligence that the store was selling alcohol in the early hours of the morning, despite their licence only allowing sales to start at 8am. Local officers from Boston assisted my team by arranging a test purchase operation and they were able to buy alcohol at 6:30am.
“When we spoke to staff they displayed no knowledge in relation to their responsibilities under the licensing act and had clearly never received any training. There were no incidents books or refusals logs and nobody knew how to access or operate the CCTV system.
"Cans of lager were on sale for below the legal mandatory price and the owner was unable to produce receipts that proved this alcohol had been purchased legitimately – we believed it had been smuggled into the country to evade duty payment.
"We also discovered the store was also operating an unauthorised credit system, where customer’s passports and ID documents were retained whilst bills were paid off, in breach of the Financial Conduct Authority Rules. Fortunately we have now returned these documents to their rightful owners.
"This was the worst run store we have encountered in quite some time, with the criminal activity running alongside a total disregard for the conditions on the licence. Despite the owners of the store being aware of the upcoming review hearing for over 6 weeks, only 2 weeks ago on 7th December a plainclothes volunteer was still able to purchase a packet of illegal cigarettes from this shop.
"The decision of the council to revoke the licence sends a strong message to anyone involved in criminal activity of this type in Boston and strongly supports all the work undertaken by my team alongside local officers to disrupt the criminals involved in the sale of these dangerous cigarettes. We started 2018 with licence revocations and have ended the year with another licence being removed. We will continue this work in 2019.
"A lot of our intelligence comes from members of the local community, the action against European Food and Wine was instigated because of a tip off from a member of the public, I would like to take this opportunity to thank people for coming forward with this information and encourage the local community to keep telling us what is happening. We remain committed to the disruption, investigation and prosecution of all criminal activity being conducted on our Licensed Premises."