A Wakefield shop owner has had his licence revoked after the biggest haul of illegal cigarettes ever found by West Yorkshire’s Trading Standards were uncovered on the premises.
Officers found more than 500,000 illicit cigarettes and over 45kg of hand-rolling tobacco worth a staggering £150,000 when they raided the Sun Mini Market premises on Horbury Road in October last year.
They also found a quantity of foreign-brand vodka for which no UK duty had been paid.
Premises licence holder, Joutiar Saeed, was brought before a Wakefield Council licensing sub-committee today, Monday, March 12, where it was decided that he should be stripped of his licence to sell alcohol.
West Yorkshire Trading Standards’ (WYTS) David Strover said: “We are pleased they have taken the decision to revoke the licence.
“I hope this sends out a clear message to all operators that this won’t be tolerated by trading standards, Wakefield Council or the police.”
Mr Strover had said WYTS had “grave concerns” about the situation at Sun Mini Market during the two-hour hearing at County Hall this morning.
It was heard that WYTS were given a tip-off in August last year about illicit tobacco being sold and carried out the raid two months later.
Representing Mr Saeed, solicitor Victoria Cartmell said her client had been in Iraq at the time of the raid and had left another man in charge.
She claimed it was he who had a key to the room above the shop where the majority of the tobacco was located, rather than Mr Saeed.
She added that the man had since been quizzed by police.
Mrs Cartmell added: “Prior to this incident, my client has never come to the attention of the authorities.
“It’s an isolated incident that happened while he was out of the country.
“The gentleman left in charge was the previous licence holder and he has admitted responsibility and has since been dismissed from the premises.
“There’s no evidence that my client was an way involved in the sale of the illicit tobacco.”
However, Trading Standards pointed out that the intelligence that the shop was trading in illegal tobacco came to them in August, when Mr Saeed was still there.
The licensing committee said revoking the his licence was the “only available step”.