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Shops Lose Licences over Illegal Tobacco and Viagra-style Tablet Hauls

Two shops in Walthamstow has lost their premises licences after a raid involving sniffer dogs uncovered large quantities of illegal cigarettes, rolling tobacco, and in one case a stash of Viagra-style tablets.

Licence reviews for Asya Food Centre (13 St James Street, Walthamstow) and Inn Time Wine (14 Station Road, Walthamstow) were requested by Waltham Forest Council’s Trading Standards team, following a joint operation with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) that took place on 23 September 2016.

The review hearings took place yesterday (30 January), and in both cases Waltham Forest Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee took the decision to revoke the premise licence.

Cllr Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment said: “I’m pleased that the Licencing Sub-Committee took the decision to revoke the licences for these shops, following their brazen attempts to trade in illegal goods in our borough. I hope this serves as a warning to any trader who thinks they can put the health of our residents at risk in order to make a quick buck.”

At Asya Food Centre sniffer dogs tracked down 660 foreign non-UK duty paid cigarettes and 500g of non-UK duty paid tobacco. Officers also seized a quantity of erectile dysfunction tablets (sold as Viagra). Viagra is a prescription-only drug that cannot be sold over the counter.

The seizure followed a similar operation at Asya Food Centre in September 2015, in which officers from Trading Standards and HMRC seized quantities of non-duty paid cigarettes, rolling tobacco and prescription medication.

In the absence of the Licence Holder, Mr Ali Riza Tulu, joint owner of Asya Food Centre, attended the review hearing.

At Inn Time Wine on 23 September 2016 officers seized 120 Marlboro Gold foreign non-UK duty paid cigarettes. During a previous operation on 16 February 2016 officers from Trading Standards and HMRC found 800 non-UK duty paid cigarettes and eight packets of non-UK duty paid rolling tobacco, concealed in a hidden compartment under the shop counter.

When questioned by an HMRC officer the owner and director of Inn Time Wine, Mr Ibrahim Altun, stated the cigarettes were for his personal use. When asked to explain why the cigarettes had been concealed on the shop premises he stated - “Because they are my goods, I can conceal what I like.”

Cllr Loakes added: “Tobacco smuggling represents a significant threat to public health, and undermines the national drive to reduce smoking, especially amongst young people. It also affects legitimate retailers who struggle to cope with cheap prices, not to mention the links with large scale crime.”

Both premises have 21 days to appeal the Sub-Committee’s decision.

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