Fenland shop stripped of licence to sell alcohol after admitting importation, concealment and sale of illegal tobacco

Europa High st March. Picture: Steve Williams.

Europa High st March. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

A shop was stripped of its right to sell alcohol after it admitted importation, concealment and sale of illegal tobacco.

Europa High st March. Picture: Steve Williams.

Europa High st March. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

The licensing committee of Fenland District Council made its decision today after an earlier hearing had been postponed.

The Europa store in Broad Street, March, now has 21 days to appeal the decision.

A licence review was ordered after an illegal stash of more than 13,000 cigarettes and more than 5.5kg of rolling tobacco was found hidden inside the store.

The Europa was also caught selling 10 packets of non-duty paid Winston cigarettes at £3 each.

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Committee chairman Councillor Michael Humphrey said: “We have carefully considered the application for review as presented today by PC Richardson of Cambridgeshire Constabulary, supported by a subsequent application for a review by Andrew Fayers of Trading Standards.”

He said the committee had followed Home Office guidance “which clearly states that in such circumstances revocation should be seriously considered even in the first instance”.

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He said “due weight” had been given to the mitigating statement from Laura Pazdagyte, licence holder, together with supporting evidence from Paul Byatt, agent for the licence holder.

Cllr Humphrey said: “The licence holder by her own evidence admitted to the illegal importation concealment and sale of illegal tobacco products as an integral part of the business.

“As a panel we recognise that it is our duty to take steps with a view to the promotion of the licensing objectives in the interest of the wider community not those of the individual licence holder therefore our decision is to revoke the licence.”

PC Phil Richardson, licensing officer, said management and staff “have clearly evidenced their willingness to carry out illegal activities. Therefore it has to be considered whether the company is fit and proper to sell alcohol.”

He described the store as having “blatant disregard” to the law over the sale of tobacco.

PC Richardson showed the committee photographic evidence of an illegal stash of tobacco found at Europa. Photos, he said, demonstrated “the secretive behaviour from the staff and the hidden compartment in which the tobacco products were stored”.

The hidden stash was found in a concealed compartment by a trained police sniffer dog that joined a shop raid on March 17 alongside trading standards and customs and excise officials.

“Whilst at the shop a large number of customers attempted to enter the premises and made a hasty retreat when they saw the officials,” he said.

Trading standards officer Andrew Fayers said there had been “clear breaches of the prevention of crime and disorder and that the Amber Leaf and Golden Virginia hand rolling tobacco were counterfeit.

“We have clear evidence that the premises is being used to store and supply illicit tobacco.”

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