Illegal cigarettes and rolling tobacco found hidden in a March shop prompts a licensing review

Europa High st March. Picture: Steve Williams.

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

A shop faces a licensing review 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 in Broad Street in March was also caught selling 10 packets of non-duty paid Winston cigarettes at £3 each.

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 will show councillors conducting the review photographic evidence of an illegal stash of tobacco found at Europa.

“This statement will evidence the sale of illegal tobacco products including the secretive behaviour from the staff and the hidden compartment in which the tobacco products were stored,” he said.

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.

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PC Richardson said: “The harm caused to members of the public not knowing the dangers in purchasing cheap cigarettes may be catastrophic in terms of health and mortality.

Illegal products are “fraught with danger” because many contained different chemical and tar contents, he said, and it was unlikely the cigarettes would pass self extinguishing standards which meant they were a higher fire risk.

“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.”

He said the review was important in the interest of protecting the people of March and Fenland.

The hearing will give a chance for both Laura Pazdagyte, of Boston, the premises licence holder and Irina Spezeve of Swaffham, the supervisor responsible for alcohol sales, to give evidence that they should keep their licence.

The review is at Fenland District Council’s licensing committee on Tuesday.