Published on:04 May 2016
Enfield Council strips off licence of licence after finding 4,600 cigarette packets behind fake walls in a toilet.
An off-licence has been stripped of its licence by Enfield Council after a snifferdog detected thousands of illicit cigarettes behind two fake walls and a locked metal door in a toilet.
Enfield Food Store in Hertford Road, Ponders End, had its licence revoked on Wednesday 20 April by Enfield Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee after the Council sought a review, supported by the Metropolitan Police. The premises had also been caught breaching numerous licencing conditions.
The latest revocation is the third time that the premises has lost its licence.
Licensing Enforcement officers first visited the premises on 2 October 2015 and found nine packets of non-duty paid hand-rolling tobacco and 40 packets of cigarettes hidden under a butcher’s chopping board. They also found 13 licence conditions were being breached.
The owner was issued with a warning letter on 20 October 2015 and a voluntary declaration was signed by the premises licence holder confirming he had checked the premises and no non-duty paid products remained.
But on 10 November Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs officers seized 74 bottles of non-duty paid bitter and on 21 December 2015, Enfield Council’s Licensing Enforcement officers found more than 4,500 packets of non-duty paid cigarettes and 35 packets of hand-rolling tobacco with most discovered in a toilet area behind two fake walls and a locked metal door.
Enfield Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Cllr Daniel Anderson, said: “This was tax evasion on an industrial scale. The lengths that the premises owners went to conceal this tobacco shows that they knew what they were doing was illegal.
“This is one of the biggest seizures of tobacco ever made from an off-licence in Enfield. The premises owners repeatedly showed a flagrant disregard for the law and actively worked to undermine our efforts to licence premises in the borough.
“I understand that under the previous licence-holder tobacco was concealed in a chest of drawers with false bottoms under which the cigarettes were hidden.
“The time and effort that must have gone into building the various storage containers in which items have been concealed shows that this is obviously a large-scale operation taken very seriously.
"The last seizure alone, accounting for just cigarettes and alcohol, amounted to a staggering £24,244.37 in tax evasion."